Meeting, Abe and Putin: the Rubicon has been crossed, no turning back?

Meeting, Abe and Putin: the Rubicon has been crossed, no turning back?

TOKYO, 21 Jan — RIA Novosti, Xenia Naka. A meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which will be held on Tuesday, in Japan expect with alarm.

After the recent statements of the Russian foreign Ministry sharply criticized made in Japan in early January of statements regarding the southern Kuriles, the Japanese people traditionally call them the “Northern territories,” which was preceded by the meeting of Ministers of foreign Affairs, the vector of talks between the two leaders seems difficult to predict. RIA Novosti tried to figure out what are the prospects for the upcoming summit.

Tough start

In Japan, the foreign Ministry statement was taken more than seriously. The experts that I have spoken to the correspondent of RIA Novosti ahead of the visit, expressed concerns about how hard it can be extended to Japanese foreign Minister Taro Kono in Moscow, Russian foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and after the completion of these negotiations clarified, not does it carry any deep meaning correcting the date of Abe’s visit to Russia from 21 to 22 January. Many assumed that Kono in Moscow will actually be handed a note, and Abe’s visit canceled altogether.

After the meeting of Ministers of the behavior of the foreign Ministers of the two countries was diametrically different: if Lavrov harshly and described in detail Russia’s position over the Islands, Kono was limited to generalities about what “at this stage, of course, there are differences in opinions and positions, but we want to find during negotiations, the point at which the two sides could get together.”

Moreover, a year and a half ago that said after meeting Lavrov, in particular, about the unacceptability of the expression “the Northern territory” in relation to the four Islands of the South Kuril Islands — the names of official and generally accepted in Japan, on the legislative level, would cause a storm in Tokyo on the political scene and in the press. The Minister of foreign Affairs of Japan could well go down after such results of the visit. Now the outrage if there was, it was short-lived, if not lethargic, and without any consequences.

An inside look

The reasons for this obviously lie in the fact that whatever the official position of Japan, on the immutability which, after each information burst speak Japanese policies for them and public opinion is clear — if a peace Treaty is not signed now, while leaders of the two countries are Putin and Abe, he will not be signed never.

And if you still somehow put up with it both sides, the active contacts at various levels over the last three years, the expectations related to the further development of relations, most likely, will not give both sides to reverse. This is the case when going back to the zero freezing point will be a clear defeat for Russia and Japan.

The problem of a peace Treaty for Russia and the territorial issue for Japan — the two sides of the same coin, two names for the same negotiations that lead Moscow and Tokyo. And even from this alone it is clear how difficult it is to bring together both positions. At the same time, the failure of the talks if they did not culminate in the signing of a peace Treaty, will be seen as a fiasco and that and the other.

In this regard, the experts assess the review of the Russian foreign Ministry, which appeared on the eve of the talks Lavrov and Kono, in which the meeting is officially called the “first round of negotiations on the question of concluding a peace Treaty at the Ministerial level”.

So, a diplomat with vast experience, directly prepared the meeting in 2001, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori in Irkutsk in as head of the Department of Europe and Asia of the Japanese foreign Ministry, Kazuhiko Togo in an interview with RIA Novosti notes that “the Russian government has crossed the Rubicon, saying to the people that such talks have begun.”

The decision, whatever it may be, will not be able to satisfy everyone, it will inevitably be a compromise for each party.

But if Russian politicians compromise solution will not be a point in his career, Abe ready to, concluding a peace Treaty on certainly not acceptable from the point of view of official position conditions, to commit political suicide. Not for nothing that the speaker of the government of Japan of Yoshihide Suga last week rejected the possibility of early elections to the lower house of Parliament in July along with the planned elections to the upper house.

So, this option is already being discussed. The timing of this coincides with an approximate scenario that arose after the Eastern economic forum, when an unexpected proposal to sign the Treaty without prior conditions accelerated the negotiation process. Namely, close to the government sources have told RIA Novosti that the plans of the conclusion of the contract in June, when Putin will attend the summit of “twenty” in Osaka, respectively, to this during the next meeting of the leaders must be reached a framework agreement.

Thus, the meeting on Tuesday will be in any case, the key to bilateral relations: from its results depends on the vector of their further development.

The hope that the negotiations need to move due to the political will of the leaders expressed on Sunday even such extremely critically minded against Russia politician, Fumio Kishida, always adhere to the rigid position demands from Moscow the transfer of all four Islands and then signing a peace Treaty.

“The problem of the Northern territories and a peace Treaty is not solved until now, for 70 years after the war — quoted Kishida NHK television station. It is not a simple task. It is therefore important conversation between the leaders. I would like to, based on relationships of trust between the leaders of the efforts have been made in order to come to a decision.”

Relations between Russia and Japan for many years overshadows the absence of a peace Treaty. Japan claims the Islands of Kunashir, Shikotan, Iturup and Habomai, referring to bilateral Treatise on trade and borders of 1855. In 1956 the USSR and Japan signed a Joint Declaration in which Moscow has agreed to consider the possibility of transfer of Japan of the Habomai and Shikotan after the conclusion of a peace Treaty, and the fate of Kunashir and Iturup are not affected. The USSR hoped that the Joint Declaration will put an end to the dispute, Japan believed the document only part of the solution, not abandoning claims to all the Islands. Later the negotiations failed, the peace Treaty after the Second world war and was not signed.

There is a view that serious opposition arose from the United States, which threatened that if Japan would agree to the transfer of only two of the four Islands, it will affect the process of the return of Okinawa under Japanese sovereignty (the Agreement on the return of Okinawa to Japan entered into force in 1972). Moscow’s position is that the Islands became part of the Soviet Union at the end of the Second world war and the Russian sovereignty over them cannot be questioned.

In Singapore on 14 November was held a summit between Putin and Abe. Following the meeting, the Japanese Prime Minister said that the sides agreed to accelerate negotiations on a peace Treaty on the basis of Joint Soviet-Japanese Declaration of 1956. This is a serious concession on the part of Japan, because until now, its official position was to demand the return of the four Islands of Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan, Habomai and only after the conclusion of a peace Treaty.