Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 223

Panov’s remarks in Tokyo yesterday appeared to be designed to lower Japanese expectations as the two sides prepare for a new round of negotiations on both the peace treaty and the territorial row. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin is scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on December 9, when he will hold talks with Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Minoru Tamba. The two men are co-chairmen of a joint Russian-Japanese commission tasked with drafting the peace treaty. Among the key issues they will reportedly be discussing is the formation of two other key subcommissions: one for negotiations over the border demarcation issue, and one to discuss Russian-Japanese economic cooperation on the disputed islands. The creation of both was mandated by last month’s Moscow Declaration. According to Russian diplomatic sources, the two new subcommissions may be subordinated directly to the peace treaty commission. That issue, however, has apparently not yet been settled (Itar-Tass, November 23).

Panov’s remarks yesterday appeared also to shed some light on the nature of the response on the territorial issue handed by Yeltsin over to Obuchi during their November 12 meeting. As Russian sources had hinted earlier, Moscow has apparently proposed that negotiations over the territorial issue–to be conducted through the border demarcation subcommission–be directed at concluding a border treaty which would be separate from the broader peace treaty currently under negotiation (Kyodo, December 2). Negotiations on joint Russian-Japanese development of the Kuril Islands–to be conducted through the other new subcommission–will simultaneously seek to improve bilateral cooperation on the islands and thus to build an atmosphere of trust which could ultimately contribute to a resolution of the territorial dispute.

Russian and Japanese officials are also to begin talks in Tokyo next week on an issue related to both the territorial row and joint economic development of the islands–namely, a fishing agreement spelling out the conditions under which Japanese boats can fish the waters off the Kuril Islands. The two sides agreed last week that Japanese boats will be allowed in 1999 to catch the same quantity of fish within twelve miles of the islands as they were in 1998. In return, Japan will reportedly pay some 20 million yen in fees, another 200 million yen in economic assistance, while also giving Russia some 15 million yen worth of fishing equipment (Kyodo, December 2). The fishing agreement, signed in February of this year after long and arduous negotiations, has been applauded by both sides as a symbol of improved Japanese-Russian relations and–by the Russian side at least–as a possible model of economic cooperation on the islands.