As it did following a similar incident nearly a year ago, Moscow has again rebuffed a protest by Tokyo over a decision by Russian border forces to fire on Japanese boats fishing the waters near the disputed Kuril Islands. (See Monitor, June 27) The Russian Foreign Ministry on June 26 blamed the incident, which occurred one day earlier and left one Japanese fisherman seriously injured, on what it said was an intrusion by the Japanese boats into Russian waters. A ministry spokesman also suggested that the actions by the Japanese boats could undermine recent positive developments in Russian-Japanese relations. He described as "deplorable" the fact that the incident should have occurred so soon after Russian and Japanese leaders met for talks at the G-7 summit in Denver.
A Russian border forces commander reacted similarly, accusing the Japanese fishermen of having organized a type of reconnaissance operation on the eve of salmon spawning season. It was aimed, he said, at determining whether or not Russia’s border guard vessels were prepared to confront poachers. The commander also said that the Federal Border Service had ordered an increase in the number of ships and aircraft patrolling the area around the disputed islands. (Itar-Tass, June 26-27) During talks yesterday in Hong Kong, Japanese foreign minister Yukihiko Ikeda called again for Russian authorities to stop the border guards from firing on Japanese fishing boats in the waters off the Kurils. Primakov reportedly expressed regret over the June 25 incident, but called upon Tokyo to observe state borders. (RIA, June 30)
Military Debts: More Government Promises and More Protest Actions.