During talks that both sides described as positive, Russian president Boris Yeltsin and visiting Japanese foreign minister Yukihiko Ikeda agreed March 20 to expand economic relations and reaffirmed a 1993 agreement — the Tokyo Declaration — that calls for an early and peaceful resolution of the Kuril Island territorial dispute. Yeltsin also asked Tokyo to support Russian membership in the G-7. In separate talks, Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov revealed that Moscow had halved the number of troops deployed on three of the four disputed Kuril islands to 3,500 and pledged to achieve their full demilitarization. The two sides also conducted the first meeting of the joint Japanese-Russian commission on economic ties, which is cochaired by Ikeda and Russian first deputy prime minister Oleg Soskovets. (Western agencies & Interfax, March 20)
Moscow’s reaffirmation of the Tokyo Declaration and Primakov’s pledge to demilitarize the disputed Kuril Islands appeared to put relations back on a positive track. Following his appointment as foreign minister in January, Primakov had callously suggested that Moscow was backtracking from the 1993 agreement. His remarks elicited a frosty response from Tokyo. (See Monitor, January 22) Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto’s scheduled trip to Moscow for the April G-7 Summit will go a long way toward determining whether any real diplomatic momentum can be sustained between the two countries. Japan’s defense chief is also scheduled to visit Moscow sometime in the near future.
Yeltsin Departs for Norway.