Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 27

Long-standing differences between Russia and Japan over negotiations on both a peace treaty and on resolution of the Kuril Islands territorial dispute remained much in evidence this week. On February 7 in Tokyo Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi was quoted as saying that he intends to make the signing of a peace treaty with Russia–a task which both sides had committed to completing by the year 2000–conditional on their resolving the territorial dispute. Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura made the same point when he said that Tokyo would “promote negotiations [with Russia] through a consistent adherence to our policy of resolving the four-islands issue in order to conclude a peace treaty” (Kyodo, February 7).

Yesterday in the Russian capital, however, unnamed Russian diplomatic sources reportedly suggested that Moscow hopes to put off discussion of both the territorial issue and the peace treaty until an unspecified later date. For now, the sources said, Moscow believes that the two countries should instead pursue only a separate “peace, friendship and cooperation” treaty. That document, they say, would contain some sort of mutually acceptable formula stipulating that the two sides would continue talks on the territorial issue (Russian agencies, February 8).

Russian and Japanese diplomats will get a chance to iron out their differences during Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov’s scheduled February 21-23 visit to Tokyo. The two sides will also butt heads over the issue during a Russian-Japanese summit meeting scheduled for some time in the first half of this year.