Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 17

In a further indication of improving relations between Moscow and Tokyo, Russian officials said yesterday that the two countries are expected to sign a long-negotiated fishing agreement "in a matter of days." (AP, Russian agencies, January 26) The agreement–the topic of arduous negotiations for approximately three years–regulates fishing for Japanese boats in the waters off the disputed Kuril Islands. The text of the new agreement was reported to have been finalized late last month, but at that time still faced review by each government. (See Monitor, January 7)

Japanese fishing rights have been a cause of much acrimony between Russia and Japan because the issue is closely tied to the dispute over ownership of the four South Kuril Islands (called the Northern Territories in Japan). Yesterday’s announcement on the fishing accord comes on the heels of a Russian-Japanese agreement last week to create a joint commission for the drafting of a bilateral peace treaty. (See Monitor, January 23) The success of the commission will very much depend on the ability of the two sides to develop an amicable resolution to the territorial dispute. The fishing agreement could help that process.

A continued strengthening of contacts between the military establishments of the two countries was also evident yesterday as Russian defense minister Igor Sergeev met in Moscow with the First Deputy Director-General of the Japanese Defense Agency, Masahiro Akiyama. The talks, closed to reporters, were said to have focused on proposals for military contacts mooted during last November’s informal summit between Russian president Boris Yeltsin and Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. Sergeev and Akiyama reportedly also discussed security issues in the Asia-Pacific region. (Itar-Tass, January 26)

Akiyama also held talks yesterday with the commander in chief of the Russian navy, Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov. The two agreed that working groups from the Russian and Japanese naval headquarters will meet in March to work out a plan of contacts between naval personnel. The groups will also set the date for a first Russian-Japanese naval exercise devoted to sea rescues. According to Kuroyedov, a telephone "hot line" may be set up between the commands of Russia’s Pacific Fleet and the Japanese navy. (Itar-Tass, January 26)

Underground Organization Claims Responsibility for Buinaksk Raid.