The Kuril Islands` «fog»

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Jun 19, 2019
In the Japanese city of Osaka, where the G-20 summit was held at the end of June 2019, negotiations were held between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

At the joint press conference on the results of the bilateral negotiations, the heads of the two states noted that the parties had agreed on another visit to the burial sites of their ancestors for the former Japanese residents of the southern Kuril Islands, which would be held in August or September of this year. Negotiations were continued on the issue of a peace treaty and progress towards joint economic activities in the southern part of the Kuril Islands.

The heads of the two states were also presented at the signing of several documents. For example, the Russian-Japanese investment fund decided to invest in the construction of chemical plants in Volgograd city. The project cost is more than 50 billion rubles. And the Japanese consortium acquired a stake in the Arctic LNG-2 project. Japanese investment in the construction of a plant for the production of liquefied natural gas will be about $ 3 billion. In general, the number of Japanese companies operating in the Russian market reached 270, and the trade turnover grew by 17%.

In the fall, Japan and Russia will begin joint projects in the field of tourism and trash recycling in the South Kuril Islands.

From September 2019, Japan plans to ease the visa regime for Russian businessmen to further encourage bilateral contacts. Moreover, a decision was made to simplify the procedure for issuing visas to students at 465 universities in Russia in order to expand contacts between young people.

As for the main issue - the ownership of the South Kuril Islands, according to the Russian president, it will be possible to start solving such complex issues only after the restoration of trust between the states. And for this, Russian-Japanese relations should reach a new level.

However, the Japanese Prime Minister hopes that work on the peace treaty will continue on the basis of the Soviet-Japanese declaration of 1956. But now Japan has a reason to be concerned from a completely unexpected side. The data that US President Donald Trump is ready to revise the Security Treaty with Japan caused concern in Japan, because the degree of Tokyo independence in foreign policy is still the determining factor in solving problems with all neighboring countries. Thus, apparently Washington, as in 1956, once again interferes in the relations between Moscow and Tokyo.

As for Shinzho Abe, when four years ago he decided to move towards signing the peace treaty with Russia, he clearly expected a quicker and tangible result.

However, neither Putin’s visit to his native Yamaguchi prefecture, nor the attempts to get to the solution of the problem through the development of cooperation on the disputed islands, nor even the oath on his father’s grave have yet come to nothing. Thus, the signing of the peace treaty is still a dream, as ghostly as the outlines of Mount Fuji in the fog. And it seems that until the change of power in Japan, which is expected to happen in 2021, nothing will change. This, apparently, is already understood by Prime Minister Abe himself, who recently managed to lose a fair amount of former enthusiasm.