Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 69

Despite the generally optimistic public statements from both sides on the likelihood that this summit too will be a successful one, hints of tension have been heard over what is shaping up to be a key question in the broader Russian-Japanese dialogue. That question is whether talks on a peace treaty and on increased Japanese-Russian economic cooperation are to be linked to a resolution of the Kuril Islands territorial dispute. Since the last summit Japanese officials have denied Russian reports that the territorial issue — of paramount importance to Tokyo — will be considered separately. Some Russian officials, in turn, have warned that Japan is likely to hold joint economic development of the Kurils hostage to Russian concessions on territorial concerns.

That set of issues appeared to surface again yesterday. Acting Russian Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, who is to accompany Yeltsin to Japan, said that the Russian president will propose a program of joint economic cooperation for Russia’s far eastern region — including the Kuril Islands. Zadornov also said that the two leaders will not talk about the status of the four disputed islands (called the Northern Territories in Japan). Although a Japanese deputy foreign minister said yesterday that Tokyo is prepared to consider Russia’s economic proposals, it seems unlikely that Japanese leaders will pass up the opportunity to raise the territorial issue anew when Yeltsin and Hashimoto meet in Kawana. (Kyodo, April 8)

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