Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 161

The latest wrangle between Japan and Russia over fishing rights near the disputed Kuril Islands heated up yesterday. On August 28 Russian patrol boats fired on two Japanese ships fishing in waters off northeastern Japan near the southern Kuril Islands, wounding two of the Japanese fishermen on board. Later in the day Japan’s Foreign Ministry requested Russian authorities to investigate the incident. Tokyo also suggested that the Japanese boats may have been in neutral waters and said that firing on unarmed, private ships was unacceptable in any event. The Japanese Foreign Ministry raised the question of compensation for the damaged Japanese fishing boats and the injured crew members. (Xinhua, Itar-Tass, Interfax, August 28)

But during a meeting yesterday with the Japanese Consul General in Vladivostok, the commander of Russia’s Far Eastern border forces district called the Japanese fishermen "poachers," and refused to consider the issue of compensation. Col. Gen. Vitaly Sedykh also accused Japanese marine authorities of failing to promote cooperation with Russia in the prevention of border violations, and said that Russian forces would therefore have "to act on their own in extreme situations." In Moscow, meanwhile, a Foreign Ministry spokesman defended the actions of Russia’s border forces, as did a State representative for Russian fishing interests. (Itar-Tass, Interfax, August 29)

Fishing rights in the area have been a long-standing source of friction between Moscow and Tokyo and are directly related to the Kuril Islands territorial dispute. Russian border forces report having fired ten times since the beginning of August on Japanese fishing boats that they say are poaching in Russian waters near the South Kurils. Overall, however, the number of such incidents has been declining steadily since 1993, a trend that authorities attribute to bilateral talks and other joint efforts. For all of that, an agreement on fishing rights has continued to elude the two sides, despite six rounds of talks on the issue. (Itar-Tass, August 28. See also Monitor, June 7)

Saratov in Festive Mood in Runup to Gubernatorial Election.