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2008年5月 7日 (水)


(Apr. 28, 2008)

Elevate Japan-Russia ties to higher plane

日露首脳会談 「高い次元」に引き上げるには(4月28日付・読売社説)

It is extremely important for Japan, in both the diplomatic and security fields, to find ways to strengthen relations with Russia--a relationship that lags in maturity compared with Japan's ties with the United States, China, South Korea and European nations.


Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda visited Russia over the weekend and met separately with Russian President Vladimir Putin and President-elect Dmitry Medvedev. During the meetings, Fukuda agreed to cooperate on specific items on which Russia is seeking accord in the areas of energy, transportation and the environment.


Fukuda and Putin agreed to continue trying to resolve the territorial dispute over the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido.


As Fukuda said during the meeting with Putin, it is difficult to "raise the relationship between the two countries to a higher level" without making progress in discussions on the northern territories. Japan must persist in repeatedly holding negotiations so that the two nations can settle the issue of sovereignty control over the islands is returned to Japan from Russia.


Russia, for its part, is trying to expand its influence over the Asia-Pacific region, where many economies are booming.


Mutual benefit


To maintain its volume of energy exports--pivotal to ensuring its economic growth--Russia needs to develop natural resources in eastern Siberia and conserve energy at home. Moscow apparently aims to use Japanese investment and high technology to help achieve these goals.


Siberia is a promising area that also could supply energy resources for Japan. During the summit talks, Japan agreed to jointly explore oil fields in eastern Siberia, partly with the aim of using this economic cooperation as leverage to win concessions from Russia in the territorial dispute.


Putin, however, merely stated that, "We would like to advance negotiations [over the territorial dispute] through repeated talks, and to make progress [in resolving the dispute], we would like to develop the overall relationship between the two nations."


With its robust economy fueled by soaring prices for oil and other natural resources, Russia has seen a resurgence of nationalism and many Russians are clamoring for the nation to return to superpower status. There has been no change in Russia's hard-line stance toward Japan.


Officially ending the war


Only peace treaty negotiations remain untouched among the six items of cooperation included in the Japan-Russia Action Plan that was agreed to during the 2003 summit meeting between the Japanese and Russian leaders. The Japanese government regards the action plan as something that will pave the way for settling the territorial dispute.


When Putin visited Japan for talks in 2005, however, Tokyo and Moscow were unable to even issue a joint political statement due to the wide gap between the two sides' positions on the dispute. Japanese officials feel they have hit a brick wall over the issue.


Fukuda is scheduled to meet Medvedev on the sidelines of the July Group of Eight summit at the Lake Toya resort in Hokkaido. It is hoped that with the inauguration of the new Russian regime, Fukuda will be able to advance negotiations by confirming the validity of key diplomatic documents regarding peace treaty negotiations previously signed by Japan and Russia.


It also is important for Japan to cooperate with Russia in forming a framework for tackling global warming--the major agenda item at the upcoming G-8 summit--as well as on such issues as the elimination of North Korea's nuclear program and the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 28, 2008)

20084280213  読売新聞)


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