Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 105

The governor of Russia’s Far Eastern Sakhalin region said yesterday that President Boris Yeltsin had issued a package of decrees to provide greater federal support for both Sakhalin and the disputed South Kuril Islands. (Itar-Tass, June 1) The South Kurils–a part of Sakhalin region–are claimed by Japan and their status continues to be the subject of talks between Moscow and Tokyo.

Yeltsin’s latest decrees are a follow-up to a tour of Sakhalin and the Kurils by Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky in the immediate aftermath of the last Russian-Japanese summit on April 18-19. Yastrzhembsky recommended, following his visit, that federal assistance to the region, which has been hard hit by political and economic changes in Russia, be increased. (See the Monitor, April 20-21) Russia and Japan have discussed joint economic development of the disputed islands, a project much sought by Moscow, but Tokyo has stalled in an apparent wait for concessions from Russia on the territorial issue.

Demilitarization of the Kuril Islands, meanwhile, was the subject of talks in Moscow yesterday between Russian General Staff chief Anatoly Kvashnin and Admiral Kazuya Natsukawa, chairman of the Japanese Self-Defense Force’s Joint Staff Council. In remarks to reporters, Kvashnin said he had informed Natsukawa that the dates for demilitarization of the islands had not yet been established by Moscow, and that no relevant political agreements on the issue had been signed. He suggested vaguely that plans for the islands would be tied to a broader reorganization of Russia’s military forces in the Far East as a whole. (Itar-Tass, Kyodo, June 1) Defense Ministry sources in Moscow say that Russia’s forces on the disputed islands have been cut in recent years from 3,000 to 1,300 men. Under a five-stage plan proposed by Boris Yeltsin in 1990 to resolve the Kuril Islands territorial dispute, stage three envisions the complete demilitarization of the Kuril Islands.