Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 212

Russia and Japan on November 13 made public the so-called “Moscow Declaration,” a much-advertised joint statement which sets out broad foreign policy goals for the two countries in the years to come. The statement had been signed the day before during summit talks in Moscow between Russian President Boris Yeltsin and visiting Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi (see the Monitor, November 13). The document was unveiled during a meeting between Obuchi and Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov. Yeltsin, who had unexpectedly missed a Russian-Japanese banquet on the evening of November 12, did not attend the November 13 ceremony with Obuchi and Primakov.

The Moscow Declaration calls for the development of a “creative partnership” between Russia and Japan in which the two sides pledge to conduct regular consultations on important regional and international issues. The document also underscores the importance of the “Yeltsin-Hashimoto plan,” a large-scale program of Russian-Japanese economic cooperation first discussed during one of Yeltsin’s earlier summit meetings with then Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. More specifically, the Moscow Declaration sets out–for the first time officially–a joint pledge by the countries to work toward the signing of a bilateral peace treaty by the year 2000 (Itar-Tass, Kyodo, November 13).

On the same day that they signed and unveiled the Moscow Declaration, Obuchi and Primakov also signed a package of other accords. These included an agreement on the encouragement and protection of capital investments and memorandums on cooperation in environmental protection, tourism and telecommunications. Obuchi and Primakov had also been expected to focus their talks on Japanese financial aid for Russia. But it was unclear afterward whether the two sides had made progress on the manner in which Japan will hand over to Russia a US$800 million installment of a loan promised earlier to Moscow (Russian agencies, AP, November 13).

The Declaration also confirmed the intention of Russia and Japan to set up two new subcommittees which are to work, respectively, on demarcation of the Russian-Japanese border and on joint economic cooperation of the four disputed south Kuril Islands. The territorial dispute between Russia and Japan over the islands remains the major obstacle to fully normalized bilateral relations, but it was unclear after last week’s talks whether the two sides had made any real progress in that area. In Moscow, and again later after he was back in Japan, Obuchi suggested that a breakthrough of sorts had occurred on the territorial issue (Kyodo, November 13; Itar-Tass, November 15). His optimism may have been bolstered in part by the reaffirmation in the Moscow Declaration that the two sides will seek to sign a peace treaty by the year 2000. Tokyo has insisted that any such treaty must include resolution of the territorial issue.

But the governor of Russia’s far eastern Sakhalin region, Igor Farkhutdinov, suggested that Obuchi had made little headway on the Kuril Islands issue. Farkhutdinov, who took part in the talks between Primakov and Obuchi, told reporters that an earlier Japanese proposal on the islands had received a negative reception in Moscow. He appeared also to confirm that the Japanese proposal–handed over by Hashimoto in April and addressed officially by Yeltsin last week–did indeed involve a redrawing of the Russian-Japanese border in a fashion that would ultimately bring the four islands under Tokyo’s control (Itar-Tass, November 13). In another remark likely to disappoint the Japanese, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitri Yakushkin said that the territorial row was, in fact, unlikely to be resolved by the year 2000–notwithstanding the pledge to seek the signing of a peace treaty by then. Yakushkin suggested that Moscow does not share the view that resolution of the territorial issue must be a part of any Russian-Japanese peace treaty (Kyodo, November 13).