Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 75

Beset by problems at home, the leaders of Russia and Japan yesterday wound up a two-day summit that exuded amicability and maintained a recent steady improvement in bilateral relations. The summit also resulted in a number of initiatives aimed at broadening political and economic ties between the two countries. Those agreements, however, were largely statements of intentions. For Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his host, Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, the weekend’s talks appeared to further strengthen their personal ties, though without producing a breakthrough on any front. The key issue–the Kuril Islands territorial dispute, which has both prevented a full normalization of bilateral relations and stands at the center of the countries’ efforts to conclude a peace treaty formally ending World War II–looked as intractable afterward as it had before the talks.

Held in the Japanese seaside resort of Kawana, this second informal summit meeting between Yeltsin and Hashimoto included two ninety-minute negotiating sessions and numerous more casual contacts. Reporters noted particularly that the oft-ailing Yeltsin, who embarked on the long flight to Japan right after the Russian Duma had for the second time rejected the candidacy of Prime Minister-designate Sergei Kirienko, appeared sharp and robust.

In terms of personal dynamics, the meeting appeared to be as much a success as had their first “no-necktie” summit, which took place last fall in Krasnoyarsk. This weekend’s meeting was delayed a week due to Yeltsin’s political problems at home. Japanese leaders, it might be observed, had to be pleased that the Russian president chose to make the trip despite Kirienko’s defeat. (International agencies, April 18-19)