Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 133

Some Russian analysts were said to be concerned yesterday over the adverse impact that parliamentary election results in Japan might have on diplomatic relations between Moscow and Tokyo. The Liberal Democratic Party of Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto suffered a major defeat in a Japanese parliamentary vote yesterday. There was speculation last night that Hashimoto could announce his resignation as early as today. This morning it was announced that Hashimoto had resigned his post. (Reuter, July 12-13)

The Japanese prime minister has been the key force behind an initiative by Tokyo to improve relations with Russia. That initiative has resulted in two successful summit meetings between Hashimoto and Russian President Boris Yeltsin: in Krasnoyarsk last November and in the Japanese city of Kawana this past April. Those meetings, and a series of related consultations by Foreign Ministry officials from the two countries, have moved Tokyo and Moscow toward the signing of a peace treaty that would formally end World War II and normalize bilateral relations. Hashimoto was scheduled to visit Russia this fall to further those plans, but his political troubles–and perhaps those of Yeltsin himself–could well slow the diplomatic momentum that has been building between the two countries.

For Russia, the most immediate casualty of yesterday’s election results in Japan could be two days of talks scheduled to start today in Tokyo between Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko and top Japanese officials. The visit is the first to Japan by a Russian prime minister, and is seen by both sides as symbolic of the recently improved ties between the two countries. More substantively, Kirienko’s talks in Japan are to focus on economic and trade issues, including Moscow’s hopes of winning Japanese support for international financial aid. That was among the key topics discussed by Yeltsin and Hashimoto in a telephone conversation on July 11. Hashimoto reportedly praised the Kremlin’s crisis stabilization program and offered Yeltsin support for Russian efforts to win a package of loans from the IMF. (Russian and Japanese agencies, July 11)