Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 167

To balance their respective talks in Auckland with U.S. President Bill Clinton, both Russian Premier Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin used a consultation session of their own yesterday to reemphasize their common effort to limit U.S. international influence. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying that the Russian and Chinese leaders had reiterated their joint opposition to a world “dominated by any single superpower”–their standard condemnation of U.S. diplomatic might–and to the creation instead of a “multipolar world.” To better promote those twin goals, Russia and China have declared themselves to be “strategic partners.” They also touched on bilateral trade and economic and political relations–elements which both sides hope to strengthen in order to give substance to their partnership.

Like Clinton, Putin also used yesterday’s meeting with Jiang as an opportunity to reemphasize Moscow’s support for a “one-China” policy. This refers to Moscow’s view of Taiwan as an integral part of a single China. In addition, Putin and Jiang also discussed plans for an informal summit meeting this fall between Jiang and Russian President Boris Yeltsin. They apparently set no actual date for the meeting (Itar-Tass, Kyodo, September 12).

The same was true–albeit with greater consequence–during talks yesterday between Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. Tokyo has been pressing Moscow for months to schedule a long-overdue visit by Yeltsin to Japan. But, apparently because of the inability of the two sides to resolve their long-standing dispute over the four south Kuril Islands, the Kremlin has thus far been unwilling to agree to a date for the visit. That pattern continued yesterday. Although Obuchi suggested that he had pressed Putin to indicate exactly when Yeltsin would come to Japan, he told reporters afterward that the Russian premier “did not directly and specifically indicate the timing of the president’s visit to Japan.”

A Japanese official told reporters yesterday that at present the “ball is clearly in Russia’s court.” That comment appeared to refer not only to the Yeltsin visit, but by extension to the entire range of negotiations currently ongoing between the two countries. Those include a peace treaty formally ending World War II, resolution of the territorial dispute and joint economic development of the four islands in question. Moscow has tried to decouple the latter two issues–and broader Russo-Japanese economic cooperation as well–from the peace treaty talks. Tokyo has generally viewed them all as parts of a single package.

In a related development yesterday, an adviser to Putin suggested to reporters that Obuchi had expressed the Japanese government’s support for current Russian military actions in Dagestan. The adviser said that Obuchi had agreed that the hostilities in the Russian Caucasus have been caused by terrorists, and that Russia and Japan are united in their opposition to terrorism (Kyodo, Itar-Tass, September 12).