Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 83

Russia’s Foreign Ministry this week voiced anew its concerns over a Japanese-U.S. decision to increase their defense cooperation. Moscow’s comments were occasioned by the Japanese lower house of parliament’s approval on April 27 of three bills which would implement the upgraded U.S.-Japanese defense guidelines. These bills, originally submitted to parliament a year ago, are expected to become law after being passed by Japan’s upper house of parliament–possibly next month; they relate to an upgrading of Japanese-U.S. defense guidelines to permit Japan to offer the U.S. greater rear area and logistical military support in the event of a security crisis in Asia. The April 27 vote came on the eve of Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi’s departure today for summit talks in the United States. This was no coincidence.

Russia’s objections to the amended guidelines pertain to the deliberately ambiguous language indicating the scope of the enhanced military cooperation. As expressed by the Russian diplomatic source this week, Moscow is seeking clarification as to what sort of Asian crisis might trigger joint U.S.-Japanese military activities. Moscow would also like to know whether the sphere of military cooperation as currently envisioned by Japan and the United States includes Russian territory in the Far East.

That latter concern appears to be two-fold. Moscow claims, first, that enhanced cooperation could improve the efficiency of U.S. military operations in the Far East, and thus might increase the threat to Russia in the region. Moscow is apparently also concerned that the cooperation might extend to the four Russian-controlled south Kuril Islands (Itar-Tass, April 27; Kyodo, AP, April 28). Tokyo claims the islands; their status is currently the subject of intense negotiations between Japan and Russia.

The enhanced guidelines for Japanese-U.S. defense cooperation constitute another area in which Russia and China have a common cause. Beijing has questioned whether Taiwan is included in the area covered by the new agreement. Russia and China have also objected jointly in recent months to a proposal under which Japan and the United States will consider developing a theater missile defense system in the Far East. Beijing and Moscow claim that they have held joint consultations on that issue, though the Chinese government has rebuffed a Russian suggestion that the two countries might take joint measures to counter the proposed system.