Russian President Boris Yeltsin indicated earlier this week that he intends to pay a visit to Japan for summit talks with Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi sometime in the autumn. Yeltsin said that this came during talks in the Kremlin on April 21 with Ryutaro Hashimoto, the former Japanese prime minister who is now a top foreign policy aide to Obuchi (Itar-Tass, Kyodo, April 21).
It was Hashimoto who, in 1997, launched a diplomatic initiative aimed normalizing Russian-Japanese relations. That effort led to two informal summit meetings between Hashimoto and Yeltsin, and a pledge according to which the two countries would sign a peace treaty–formally ending World War II–by the year 2000. An increasingly apparent inability by the two countries to resolve their differences over the Kuril Islands territorial dispute has halted progress to that goal, however, and led Yeltsin to put off a visit to Japan originally scheduled for this spring. Hashimoto’s informal visit to Russia this week, his second as an aid to Obuchi, was intended to get talks between the two countries back on track.
Whether that will happen remains to be seen. Details of Yeltsin’s proposed trip to Japan are to be discussed in May during a visit to Russia by Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura. Discussion at that time on the Kurils Islands territorial dispute and other related issues will probably determine whether Yeltsin’s fall summit meeting with Obuchi becomes a reality.
COLLECTIVE SECURITY TREATY SHRINKS, GUAM SET TO GROW.