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Dmitry Streltsov

Doctor of History, Head of the Department of Oriental Studies of the MGIMO University, RIAC expert

On December 15–16, Vladimir Putin visited Japan. The meetings with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held in Nagato (Yamaguchi Prefecture) and Tokyo resulted in several important agreements, indicating the progress in the long-standing dispute settlement. Dmitry Streltsov comments on Vladimir Putin’s visit.

On December 15–16, Vladimir Putin visited Japan. The meetings with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held in Nagato (Yamaguchi Prefecture) and Tokyo resulted in several important agreements, indicating the progress in the long-standing dispute settlement. Dmitry Streltsov comments on Vladimir Putin’s visit.

First and utmost, the parties confirmed their commitment to peace treaty signing. The route to achieve this goal was chosen too: to conduct joint economic activity in the Kuril Islands, which would create conditions to solve the peace treaty problem. It was decided to immediately start consultations on seeking special regime to ensure Japan’s economic presence in the Islands. The leaders’ statements note that through consultations Russia and Japan may achieve signing a separate international treaty on this matter.

According to the joint statement, simultaneous activity does not affect countries’ stances on peace treaty issue. Thus, Tokyo’s consent to have Japanese citizens on disputed territories by no means indicates Japan’s recognition of Russia’s sovereignty there. However, on the first day of the visit, when asked whether the economic activity will be conducted according to Russian legislation, Aide to President Ushakov responded: “Of course, it is the territory of the Russian Federation.”

Without any doubt, not only Russia will benefit from Japanese capital being pushed actively to Kuril Islands and Sakhalin Oblast. According to Russia’s regional authorities, Japanese investors will receive all possible discounts available for those investing in Russia’s Far East. The more promising areas for cooperation include fishery, creating aqua farms and building urban infrastructure.

Another important agreement covered the ability of Japanese ex-inhabitants of the islands to freely visit South Kuril Islands: now they can freely go there to take care of their predecessors’ tombs. Russia’s President went further, suggesting a visa-free regime for Sakhalin oblast and Hokkaido island. According to Nobuo Shimotomai, well-known Japanese expert, creating such interregional infrastructure of people exchange is a “by-pass” that would allow progress in peace talks that have been stalled for a long time.

The tangible results of the visit include detailed agreements on economic cooperation, covering Abe’s “8-point plan.” At the summit that also included Russia-Japan business forum, the parties signed 1 interstate, 11 intergovernmental and 68 commercial agreements, which hopefully will significantly strengthen bilateral economic ties that are now are not at their peak. Cooperation projects proposed are reported to reach US $2,54 billion. It was also announced that Russia-Japan investment fund of US $1billion was to be established, with Russian Direct Investment Fund and Japan’s bank for international cooperation acting as founders. Most importantly the agreements reached covered not only traditional for bilateral ties energy sector but also such innovative and socially important spheres as agriculture, pharmaceuticals, IT and urban infrastructure. Still, all economic cooperation projects were elaborated so that they would not interfere with the sanctions imposed on Russia by Japan together with other G7 countries.

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