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Japan-Russia Talks at Critical Point, Arrange for Abe To Go To Moscow Next Week

Jan. 15, 2019 (EIRNS)—Foreign Ministers Taro Kono and Sergey Lavrov met on Jan. 14 in Moscow, explicitly to work on agreement for a peace treaty and development cooperation in preparation for Shinzo Abe’s visit to Moscow on Jan. 22. There is no certainty that the agreement will be reached in that summit, but there is optimism that it can be concluded this year.

The roadblocks are important. Two earlier potential agreements between Japan and Russia, in 1956 and again in 1978, failed primarily because the U.S. intervened to sabotage them. Putin has repeatedly pointed to Japan’s lack of true sovereignty in this regard as the primary stumbling block. In particular, if the four disputed Kurile islands are divided two and two, as had been proposed in 1978, will the U.S. be able to force or coerce Japan to allow U.S. military bases to be established on their islands? The Russians could not accept that.

Thus, in a press conference yesterday, after the meeting with Kono, Lavrov stated:

“One more important aspect that I must mention concerns security cooperation. The 1956 Declaration was signed when Japan did not have a military alliance treaty with the U.S. The [U.S.] treaty was signed in 1960, after which our Japanese colleagues departed from the 1956 Declaration. Now that we are resuming talks on the basis of this declaration, we must consider the drastic change that has taken place in Japan’s military alliances since then. At today’s talks we devoted attention to the U.S. efforts to develop a global missile defense system in Japan with a view to militarizing that part of the world and also to the actions that the U.S. formally justifies by citing the need to neutralize the North Korean nuclear threat. These actions are creating security risks for Russia and China.”

At this point, Russia is insisting upon its continuing sovereignty over the four islands, while trying to come to agreement on joint development.

Lavrov also expressed concern over a recent statement by Abe that Russian citizens would be allowed to stay when sovereignty transferred to Japan. Russia called in the Japanese Ambassador after that remark to reject absolutely a transfer of sovereignty. Also, an advisor to Abe was quoted as saying that Japan counted on Washington’s support for a peace treaty with Russia, as a means of countering China. Lavrov told the press:

“This is an outrageous statement. Today we stated this openly.... We have also inquired more broadly about how independent Japan can be in addressing any issues with such heavy dependence on the United States. We were assured that Japan would make decisions based on its national interests. We would like it to be that way.”

Nonetheless, both sides are committed to finally resolving the post-World War II issue and getting to work on joint development and other cooperation.

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