Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 3

Three years of often difficult negotiations over the regulation of fishing by Japanese boats in the waters off the disputed Kuril Islands apparently came to a successful close in Moscow on December 30. In remarks to reporters on January 6, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady Tarasov said that the fishing agreement "opens up a new form of interaction" between Moscow and Tokyo and that it serves as an example of cooperation in Russian-Japanese relations. Tarasov observed that the fishing accord was finalized in compliance with an agreement reached by President Boris Yeltsin and Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto during their informal summit meeting in Krasnoyarsk this past November. (Itar-Tass, January 6)

The talks on fishing rights, which began in March of 1995, are closely linked to the long-standing conflict between Russia and Japan over control of the disputed Kuril Islands. The successful conclusion of the talks follows several serious incidents in which Russian coastal guard vessels fired on Japanese boats fishing the waters off the islands. The fishing agreement is reportedly a detailed set of documents that, among other things, establishes quotas for Japanese boats fishing those waters and provides for payments to the Russian side — in cash and in fishing equipment — by the Hokkaido fisheries associations. The documents must still be reviewed and approved by the respective governments, but officials from both Japan and Russia indicated that the agreement could be signed at the governmental level before the end of this month. (Kyodo, Itar-Tass, December 30)

In related news, Japanese prime minister Hashimoto reportedly told cabinet officials yesterday that continued improvement in relations with Russia will be one of Japan’s central diplomatic tasks in the new year. In line with this effort, a series of high-level contacts between the two countries is planned for 1998. Japanese foreign minister Keizo Obuchi is scheduled to visit Moscow in February, while Russian president Boris Yeltsin will travel to Japan for a second informal summit meeting with Hashimoto in April. A visit to Japan in spring or summer has also been tentatively scheduled for Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. (Itar-Tass, January 6)

Extraordinary Summit Scrapped.