The rapidly changing environment in the Pacific Region gives Japan and Russia an impetus to seek a better relationship based on mutual trust. The center of global economy and politics is moving to the Asia-Pacific and the image of China has been creating a certain security vacuum in this region.
In the end of July 2012 Japan’s foreign minister Koichiro Gemba visited Moscow and met his Russian colleague Sergey Lavrov. According to experts the result of the meeting was absolutely predictable and gave no surprises.
Valdaiclub.com interview with Taisuke Abiru, Research Fellow, The Tokyo Foundation (TKFD), Project Member, “Eurasia Information Network”.
How do you assess the results of Mr. Gemba's visit to Moscow in general?
I support Foreign Minister Gemba's visit to Moscow to restart negotiations on territorial issues, even though there were certain voices among Japan's political circles to call for postponing this visit due to Prime Minister Medvedev's visit to Kunashir Island last month. I support Foreign Minister Gemba's decision as I’m confident that the rapidly changing environment in the Pacific Region gives our two countries an impetus to seek a better relationship based on mutual trust. As it was underlined during the conference “Toward the Great Ocean or the New Globalization of Russia” the center of global economy and politics is moving to the Asia-Pacific and the image of China has been creating a certain security vacuum in this region. So we shouldn't miss this opportunity to have a better relationship based on mutual trust.
The result of the meeting between Foreign Minister Gemba and Foreign Minister Lavrov was almost the same as what was expected -- there were no surprises. They agreed that we have to build a better relationship in this region. But also, they found that there is still a gap between Japan and Russia on territorial issues. But they agreed to continue the dialogue. The result is almost exactly what was expected.
In your opinion, to what extent is Japan ready to participate in the development of Siberia and the Far East?
In my view, it is not so useful to discuss to what extent Japan is ready to participate in the development of Siberia and the Far East in general. But we should focus on specific projects in Siberia and the Far East in order to assess Japan's readiness to participate in the development of this region. I would say that Japan's businessmen are ready to participate in specific projects in this region, as long as these projects can be considered economically feasible and mutually beneficial, regardless of territorial issues and results. The problem is that so far, there are not so many projects that can be considered economically feasible and mutually beneficial from the Japanese businesses' point of view. That's the problem.
Talking about development, and getting back to the territorial issue, do you believe there is a possibility of resolving this problem in some kind of non-standard way, such as, for example, through the joint development of the northern territories?
I don't really understand what the term "joint development of the northern territories" means. Does that mean that Japan and Russia will jointly develop the northern territories, while shelving the issue for a certain period of time, or just giving up, if the joint development of the northern territories means that the Japanese side gives up the claim to the islands? I don't think that it is acceptable to the Japanese side. So we have to talk in more detail about this issue, because I understand that the question is in what context will we talk about the development of the northern territories? Without specifying that context, I cannot say anything about this issue.