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2009年1月31日 (土)

ビザなし交流 ロシアは国際信義を守れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 31, 2009)

Russia must keep pledge on northern territories

ビザなし交流 ロシアは国際信義を守れ(131日付・読売社説)

Moscow has moved to unilaterally cancel an agreement reached between Japan and Russia that allows so-called visaless visits by Japanese nationals to the four northern territories.


Japan cannot allow this act by Russia, carried out for Moscow's own convenience, as it constitutes a breach of trust between states.


A Japanese ship carrying humanitarian aid including medicine for residents of the Russian-held islets had to abandon its attempts to dock there and returned to Japan on Thursday after Russian authorities demanded members of the mission submit immigration cards.



'Impossible to understand'

Following disembarkation procedures set out by Russia could have resulted in Moscow claiming that Tokyo has admitted that Russia has jurisdiction over the northern territories, which are claimed by both nations.


It is a matter of course that Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said Russia's action was "impossible to understand" and demanded on behalf of the Japanese government that Russia allow visaless visits to resume.


Humanitarian assistance to residents of the four islands is carried out under the same procedures as the visaless exchange system that started in 1992.


Out of consideration for the territorial dispute between Japan and Russia, members of humanitarian missions are allowed to visit the northern territories carrying only identification cards and an attached paper from the Japanese government, which lists intended destinations and other details. Standard immigration procedures such as the presentation of passports and visas are skipped. The same mechanism is applied to former residents and their family members who come to visit graves on the islands.


However, on this occasion Russia demanded members of the mission submit embarkation/disembarkation cards in line with a revision of its domestic law in 2006. Russian officials said that future visaless exchange visitors also will not be exempted from the law.


Kunashiri Island, Etorofu Island, the Habomai group of islets and Shikotan Island are inherently Japanese territory. Japanese nationals should be able to visit there freely. The visaless visits system was agreed on to promote mutual understanding between Japanese and Russian people until a peace treaty is signed between Tokyo and Moscow.


However, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Russia should not be blamed even if limiting visaless exchange visits harms Japan-Russia relations.


The background to this is said to be the fact that the Russian Foreign Ministry is no longer able to control its Federal Migration Service, which advocates tighter immigration controls.


However, if Russia respects the promises it has made to other countries, it should make operational adjustments among its ministries and agencies, including making visaless visits to the northern territories an exception under its laws.


If nothing is done, visaless exchange visits scheduled for this summer and other programs will not be able to go ahead, in addition to planned humanitarian missions. Both the Japanese and Russian governments should hold talks to break the deadlock as soon as possible, based on the principle of visaless visits that does not undermine either nations' respective claims regarding the territorial dispute.



Development deals may suffer

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called Prime Minister Taro Aso last Saturday and proposed they hold summit talks on Sakhalin in mid-February.


Russia is trying to attract Japanese money and technology to assist in the development of Siberia and its Far Eastern regions. But, there will be no boost in economic cooperation from Japan if Moscow fails to act sincerely when dealing with the territorial issue that stands as the biggest stumbling block between Japan and Russia.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 31, 2009)

20091310141  読売新聞)


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