Russian-Japanese summit: agreement on start of negotiations for joint business activities; regional negotiations do not develop

On 15 and 16 December last year a meeting was held between Prime Minister Abe and President Putin. The parties agreed to start talks on joint economic activities on the “Northern territories”. Despite this, the decision of the territorial problems, there is virtually no results. In a statement issued after the talks, says the first step towards a peace Treaty. Thus was expressed the desire to further develop Russian-Japanese relations, but Prime Minister Abe was forced to admit that the settlement of the problem is a difficult path, in this connection, the government of Japan will have to change their strategy in order to solve the territorial issue.

This meeting between Prime Minister Abe and President Putin has become the 16th in a row. For Japan is an unprecedented number of summits. The power of the heads of the two countries is stable and long lifetime. Putin and Abe are close in spirit. Moreover, Abe invited Putin to his home town of Nagato in order to hold the meeting at the hot springs in a relaxed atmosphere. Because of this increased hopes that the question of the return of “Northern territories” will appear any specifics.

That is why the Secretary-General of the ruling liberal democratic party, Toshihiro Nikai (Toshihiro Nikai) stated that the majority of Japanese are disappointed. Party members also Express their dissatisfaction and discouragement.

Before the meeting in December, Prime Minister Abe visited Russia twice: in may he visited Sochi, and in September held talks in Vladivostok. He also met with President Putin in November in Peru.

The head of Japan believes that the territorial issue will not move forward if we are constantly insist on the affiliation of the “Northern territories”. During the meeting in Sochi, he proposed a “new approach” of the eight points that have nothing to do with old prejudices. In September, they proposed a detailed program in the field of medicine and energy.

At that stage Prime Minister Abe was confident in the development of the negotiations: “I felt a response. Perhaps there will be prospects to elaborate on the negotiations” (speech in Parliament, 27 September).

As President Putin touched upon the Soviet-Japanese Declaration of 1956, which refers to the transfer Habomai and Shikotan after the signing of the peace Treaty, the Japanese authorities began to believe that Japan will return at least two Islands.

In government circles has spread the opinion that due to the progress on the problem of “Northern territories” the Prime Minister will proceed to the dissolution of Parliament.

However, After a meeting in Peru, the situation has completely changed. No one could have imagined that the Russian side will take such a rigid stance on the territorial issue. Prime Minister Abe spoke differently: “This is not an easy task. You need to go to the goal step by step.” I had to tone down excessive expectations.

It is still unknown what he was talking about Putin and Abe during a meeting tete-a-tete in December, in the presence of some interpreters, however, the key phrase of the press conference and the joint statement is “a special system” required for joint economic activities on the “Northern territories”.

Territorial issue left from the concept of “the return of all four Islands at once”, followed by the foreign Ministry, and “return of two Islands”, as mentioned in the joint Declaration. The impression that Tokyo wanted to start with a clean slate.

“Special system” is the development of projects of economic cooperation of eight items in such areas as medicine, energy and so on. It does not imply interaction under absolute Russian sovereignty. It was promised that the legal position of Japanese business and the Japanese will be taken into account. That is not questioned Japan’s position, which insists that the Islands are originally Japanese territory.

During a press conference after a meeting in Tokyo, Prime Minister Abe emphasized the agreement “special system”: “We have agreed to start negotiations on a special system that will be needed for a joint economic activity”. In turn, President Putin said: “Thanks to the initiative of Prime Minister Abe became possible joint activity on the South Kuril Islands”. However, he said that will take into account the legal position of the Japanese.

In a press statement reads as follows: “the Parties have come to an understanding that the discussion of joint economic activities could be an important step towards signing of a peace Treaty.” However, with regard to the “special system” which demanded the Japanese side, the sides are limited to the following phrases: “Position on the issue of the peace Treaty are not being questioned. We will discuss the various legislative issues, including the conclusion of international agreements.”

The Japanese side has tried to include in the statement the phrase about the “special system” in advance, but the Russian side expressed strong protest.

Examples of “special system” is. In 1998, Russia and Japan signed an agreement that provided an opportunity for Japanese vessels fishing in the waters of the “Northern territories”. Then the parties proceeded from the rule of law, putting under the carpet the issue of jurisdiction of the territorial waters. It is assumed that similar principles will apply in respect of joint economic activities on the Islands.

In order to realize this project, it is extremely difficult to prepare a system that will respect the sovereignty of both sides, as well as police force, judiciary, taxation and so on. Similar ideas existed before, but the main obstacle was the question of sovereignty. It is assumed that the upcoming negotiations will not be smooth.

During the Russian-Japanese meeting at the highest level of private business agreed to 68 projects on the basis of the plan for economic cooperation of eight items. That is, Japanese officials and business responded as a whole to the demands of the Russian side, which wants to specify economic cooperation.

Most of the projects concern the energy sector. Japanese major trading companies have already invested in Russia, which is the energy power. This time, agreement was reached on the participation of the company “Marubeni” in the development of gas fields on the Gydan Peninsula. The company’s Mitsubishi and Mitsui also signed a document with Gazprom on cooperation in gas projects on Sakhalin.

The Russian side has high hopes for the development of the Far East. In this regard, JGC Corporation signed a Memorandum of understanding with the regional administration: the number of vegetable greenhouses built in Khabarovsk, will be increased. Residents of the far East region mainly rely on imports of vegetables from China, but many are concerned about the safety of Chinese products: residual quantity of pesticides, and so on. It is expected that through the supply of organic vegetables grown by Japanese technology, the credibility of Japan will grow.

December meeting at the highest level once again showed Japan all the difficulty to return the Islands, which were lost in the Second world war. Despite its small size, these Islands are extremely important for Russia from the point of view of security and the American threat. During the press conference, President Putin said: “Japan and the United States has a special relationship. I don’t know how to develop Russian-Japanese relations. I want you taught our fears”. The Russian leader is trying to undermine Japan’s position that relies on allied relations with the United States and being a member of the G7, took part in the anti-Russian sanctions imposed in connection with the Ukrainian problem.


In order to move the territorial problem from the dead point, Japan needs broader and multi-layered security strategy which will take into account the administration’s policy trump against Russia and the Chinese expansion.