The meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Moscow and its results demonstrate that the two countries continue to seriously work on confidence-building measures in bilateral relations, believes Valdai Club expert Taisuke Abiru, research fellow at the Tokyo Foundation (TKFD).
“In order to understand the meaning of this summit, we have to understand the key achievements of the latest meeting of the two leaders in Tokyo last December,” Abiru said in an interview to valdaiclub.com. “In my view, Japan and Russia have finally entered the serious process of building confidence measures between the two countries, which could allow us to resolve the most difficult issues: the territorial issue and signing of the peace treaty.”
According to Abiru, these measures include economic cooperation based on the 8-point plan proposed in Sochi last June, joint economic activity on the four Kuril islands and the "two-plus-two" security dialogue (ministers of foreign affairs and ministers of defense of Russia and Japan).
“Last December, they could not finally agree to restart the security dialogue,” Abiru said. “It is interesting that just after the meeting between Prime Minister Abe and US President Donald Trump last February, Japan’s government and Russia announced that they resume the dialogue which had been stopped after the Ukraine crisis started. It was highly likely that Prime Minister Abe and President Trump discussed Russia during the meeting and President Trump did not oppose Prime Minister Abe’s intention to restart the 2＋2 dialogue with Russia”.
Importantly, the two leaders continued to discuss the North Korean issue, the Valdai Club expert believes. “One of the hot topics discussed by Foreign Minister Kishida and Defense Minister Inada, on the Japanese side, and Foreign Minister Lavrov and Defense Minister Shoigu, on the Russian side, at the 2＋2 dialogue on March, 20 was North Korea’s nuclear programme. During their meeting, the two countries’ leaders also openly and seriously discussed the situation around North Korea, even though our positions are not always the same. Discussing security issues, including North Korea’s nuclear problem, has become norm between us. This is a necessary, albeit sometimes difficult, step for our confidence-building,” the expert believes.
As regards economic cooperation, Abiru pointed to the agreement of the Japanese Mitsui corporation to purchase 10% of the Russian pharmaceutical company R-Pharm and the decision of Prime Minister Abe and President Putin to send a joint research delegation to the Kuril islands in May.
“The process of confidence-building will continue for a long time, sometimes with difficulties, but we started this process. Prime Minister Abe and President Putin will meet again in Vladivostok in September and I believe they have a chance to meet at the APEC summit this November. The contact of the two leaders continues and this will be positive for the two countries’ relationship,” Abiru concluded.