Russian first deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov ended a three-day visit to Japan yesterday during which he co-chaired a meeting of a Russian-Japanese intergovernmental economic commission on June 9 and, one day later, met with Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. Nemtsov described the June 9 meeting as exceptionally important, and was quoted as saying that "substantial progress" had been made in resolving the issue of the former Soviet Union’s debt to Japan. The two sides also reportedly moved forward in discussions on loans to Russia by Japan’s Export-Import Bank, and signed three accords that will bring $100 million in investment to projects in Izhevsk, Khabarovsk, and Irkutsk. Nemtsov called current Japanese investment in Russia "laughable," and urged Japanese businesses to invest money more in such ventures as the oil and gas projects off of Russia’s Sakhalin shelf.
The territorial dispute between Russia and Japan over the Kuril Islands, which has been the primary obstacle both to greater Japanese investment in Russia’s Far East and to a full normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries, was apparently not raised directly during Nemtsov’s meeting with Hashimoto. But the issue is likely to be on the agenda shortly. During his meeting with Nemtsov, Hashimoto reportedly emphasized his desire to deepen his own personal contacts with Russian president Boris Yeltsin and to seek a broader improvement in Russian-Japanese relations. The Japanese Prime Minister also made clear his intention to raise the territorial issue during next week’s G-7 Summit in Denver, where he and Yeltsin will reportedly also discuss a possible visit to Moscow by Hashimoto later this year.
Hashimoto raised the same issue at a government meeting on June 10 when he suggested that Tokyo had agreed to support Russia’s full participation in the G-7 summit meeting in Denver (to be called the "Summit of Eight) in exchange for assurances that Washington would support Japan’s call for an early settlement of the territorial issue. Hashimoto claimed that he had asked U.S. president Bill Clinton to pressure Russia on this point prior to Clinton’s March summit meeting with Yeltsin in Helsinki. "Japan agreed to Russia’s joining [the G-7 summit] because Clinton agreed to these conditions," Hashimoto was quoted as saying. (Kyodo, June 10)
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