Russian president Boris Yeltsin indicated to reporters yesterday that he and Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto might meet informally sometime later this year, possibly in the autumn. During a meeting with a high-level group of Japanese reporters in Moscow, Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov echoed Yeltsin’s remarks. Primakov said that relations between Russian and Japanese leaders have never been so good as they are now between Yeltsin and Hashimoto, and that the Russian side fully intends to honor an agreement that calls for the leaders of the two countries to meet informally once a year. That agreement came when the two men held talks at the June 20-22 G-7 summit in Denver. (Itar-Tass, July 16)
In other remarks to the Japanese journalists, Primakov denied that Moscow’s recently more active diplomacy in Asia is in any way connected to the enlargement of NATO. Primakov also said that Moscow believes China poses no threat to peace and stability in Asia, and he cited the ongoing demarcation of the Russian-Chinese border as one sign of improving relations between Moscow and Beijing.
Earlier in the day Primakov had met with a visiting Chinese deputy foreign minister, and the border demarcation issue appeared to top their agenda. (Xinhua, July 16) Nationalist forces in Russia, along with regional government officials in the country’s Far East, have campaigned against the border demarcation on the grounds that it disadvantages Russia. In response, the Kremlin has insisted that it will honor a 1991 border agreement on which the demarcation is based, but the issue has nevertheless become a point of friction between Moscow and Beijing.
The unprecedented visit by the Japanese journalists to Moscow is itself a sign of efforts by Tokyo and Moscow to improve their own troubled ties, and the delegation has met with several Russian leaders over the past several days. On July 14 Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov told the group that Japanese assistance in the reconstruction of Russia’s economy is a necessary precondition for any possible resolution of the Kuril Island territorial dispute. A similar message was conveyed by Russian Federation Council chairman Yegor Stroyev during his own meeting with the Japanese delegation on July 16. Stroyev said that "a speedy development of economic ties" between the two countries would contribute to a resolution of the territorial dispute and of other problems between the two countries. To date, Japanese leaders have made economic aid and cooperation dependent to some extent upon progress on the territorial issue. On July 15 Russian Security Council deputy secretary Boris Berezovsky met with the Japanese journalists. (Itar-Tass, July 14-16)
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