Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 52

Russian first deputy prime minister Oleg Soskovets held talks in Moscow March 13 with the president of Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation. The two discussed Sumitomo’s possible participation in the development of coal mines in the Russian Far East, in Russian defense conversion projects, and in the development of the Nakhodka free economic zone. More importantly, the talks with Sumitomo come as Moscow prepares for the first meeting of the Russian-Japanese commission on trade and economic cooperation, scheduled for March 20 in Moscow. Chaired by Soskovets and Japanese foreign minister Yukihiko Ikeda, the commission was established on the basis of an agreement reached during a trip to Japan by Soskovets in fall of 1994. In November 1995 three sub-commissions met for the first time in Moscow. (5)

The snail’s pace at which the commission has moved reflects the stagnant nature of current Japanese-Russian relations. While specific economic projects may get a boost from the foreign minister’s visit, continued Russian intransigence on the Kurile Islands territorial dispute (see Monitor, January 22), the primary obstacle to improved relations, suggests that there will be little significant movement on the diplomatic front. Indeed, earlier reports suggested that displeasure with Moscow had caused Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto to consider not attending the April G-7 Moscow summit on nuclear security. Meanwhile, intense domestic pressures on the leaders of both countries have also impeded any warming of relations.

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