Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto put a brave face on a difficult situation yesterday as he called for continued improvement in Russian-Japanese relations during talks with visiting Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko. Hashimoto’s meeting with Kirienko, which came a day after the defeat of Hashimoto’s Liberal Democratic Party in parliamentary elections, followed on the heels of the Japanese leader’s resignation yesterday as prime minister. Despite his defeat, however, Hashimoto was quick to assure Kirienko that the new Japanese prime minister would continue to seek stronger ties with Russia. Hashimoto also said that Tokyo would continue to support Russia’s economic reform efforts by promoting bilateral economic cooperation programs and by continuing to back international efforts aimed at stabilizing Russia’s reeling economy.
Earlier, in his resignation announcement, Hashimoto had both underscored the importance of Russian-Japanese ties and had called for continued improvement in bilateral relations. Japanese Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi and his deputy, Shunji Yanai both reiterated the same message. Yanai told reporters that Japan’s new prime minister would try to visit Moscow sometime this fall. Hashimoto himself had been scheduled to travel to Russia in November–in what would have been his and President Boris Yeltsin’s third summit meeting. Obuchi–considered one of several top candidates for the prime minister post–has been actively involved in recent Russian-Japanese diplomatic developments and was scheduled to visit Moscow in September. In his own talks with Kirienko, Obuchi also called for stepped up relations between Russia and Japan, especially in trade and economic relations. (Kyodo, Itar-Tass, July 13)
To substantiate such pledges, Kirienko and Obuchi yesterday signed three agreements. One was described as an unofficial memorandum on an agreement on the mutual protection and promotion of private-sector investments. The two sides also agreed on a $1.5 billion loan to Russia by Japan’s Export-Import Bank. The first tranche of that loan will reportedly amount to $800 million, of which Russia is to receive half by the end of this month. Last, Japan and Russia exchanged letters yesterday that will extend bilateral cooperation in space for another five years. Russian Space Agency chief Yuri Koptev said that he expected the extension to reactivate cooperation in this area after a two-year lull. Kirienko is scheduled to meet today with top Japanese business leaders, and is then to hold a press conference before departing for an official visit to China. (Russian agencies, Kyodo, July 13)
RUSSIAN-JAPANESE RELATIONS AFTER HASHIMOTO.