Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 211

If the import of yesterday’s exchanges on the island issue remained elusive for those not directly involved in the talks, the two sides did manage several somewhat more concrete accomplishments in other areas. One of those was the creation of two new subcommittees, to be subordinated to an existing Russian-Japanese committee which is responsible for drafting a bilateral peace treaty. One of the subcommittees will reportedly deal with the demarcation issue–an apparent concession to Tokyo’s call for a reexamination of the Russian-Japanese border around the disputed islands. The other committee will study joint economic activities on the Kurils–an apparent nod to Moscow’s efforts to get Japanese help in developing the economically depressed islands (Russian agencies, Kyodo, November 12).

The two sides also reached agreement on a request by Obuchi to allow former Japanese residents of the south Kurils to visit the islands freely. Known as the Northern Territories in Japan, the islands were seized by Soviet troops at the close of World War II and their Japanese inhabitants driven out.

In addition, Obuchi opened up his wallet for Moscow, promising to free up a US$800 million emergency credit as part of a previously agreed upon US$1.5 billion loan package extended by Japan’s Export-Import Bank. The Japanese prime minister reportedly came up with an additional US$100 million to help bankroll economic development of the Kuril Islands, as well as US$10 million in medical assistance and US$20 million to promote youth exchange programs (AP, Kyodo, November 12).

Obuchi’s talks in Moscow are expected to continue today, when he is scheduled to meet with Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov. Those talks are expected to cover a wide range of topics, including both bilateral cooperation programs and international foreign policy issues. At the conclusion of today’s talks the two sides are expected to sign several accords, including one on investment protection, another on the creation of a joint investment company and a third on environmental cooperation.

At Yeltsin’s behest, Igor Farkhutdinov, the governor of Russia’s far eastern Sakhalin region, is expected to join the talks tomorrow. Farkhutdinov has been among those in the Far East who have warned the Kremlin against making any territorial concessions to Japan on the islands issue. But he has also been a proponent of increased Russian-Japanese economic cooperation in the region. The disputed Kuril Islands are administered by Sakhalin Oblast, and any decision to change their status would require the region’s approval (Kyodo, Itar-Tass, November 12).

The two sides have given their final approval to the so-called “Moscow Declaration,” a document which reflects the results of five years of bilateral cooperation and which sets guidelines for Russian-Japanese relations in the next century (Russian agencies, November 12; see also the Monitor, November 12). It had been expected that the document would be completed yesterday, but officials from Russia and Japan reportedly needed to put some finishing touches on it. (An item in next Monday’s Monitor will discuss the contents of the final declaration.)