Recent visit of the Prime Minister of Japan to Russia and his meeting with Russian President signalled warming in relations between their countries. This warming in the Russian Far East has caused some cold feelings in EU. It is becoming more and more clear that Russian Pivot to Asia is much more serious than previously believed among western analysts and that is causing some concerns in EU. Some analysts are even predicting that the latest developments could force EU to reconsider its sanctions against Russia before it is too late.
Washinton failed to prevent this meeting and this has sent strong signal to EU that it might be time to start looking after their own interests rather than dancing to American tune at a very high price economically and politically with no benefits. This visit is a big slap in Obama’s “Isolate Russia” strategy – not the very first one but probably the first significant one and most probably not the last one either.
Abe presents 8-point economic cooperation plan to Putin
KEIICHI YAMAGUCHI, Nikkei staff writer
Seeking a breakthrough in a frozen territorial dispute, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed Japanese cooperation on energy projects, development of the Russian Far East, and other economic matters in a meeting Friday with President Vladimir Putin.
Abe sat down with Putin here in this Black Sea resort on an unofficial visit to Russia, his first trip to the country since 2014.
Abe told reporters before the meeting that he wanted “to have a frank, open discussion” on bilateral relations, including the still-unsigned World War II peace treaty.
Putin called Japan an “important partner” for Russia in the Asia-Pacific region and said the meeting would allow the two leaders to work on various economic and political issues.
Abe’s eight-point economic cooperation proposal includes building liquefied natural gas plants, as well as ports, airports, hospitals and other infrastructure, mainly in the Russian Far East. This cooperation is predicated on progress in making headway toward a deal on the Russian-occupied islands that Japan calls the Northern Territories.
At a 2013 summit, the two leaders agreed to seek a mutually acceptable solution to the dispute. But Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, have also portrayed it as separate from negotiations on a peace treaty.
Abe and Putin are also thought to have used their latest meeting to discuss plans for a visit by Putin to Japan, a trip that has been postponed.
Russian media report that Putin intends to invite Abe to this year’s Eastern Economic Forum, a two day gathering to be held in Vladivostok from September 2.
Is Japan willing to risk US ire over improving Russia ties?
Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance journalist and media analyst
Not everyone was happy about the three-hour long talks between Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe which took place in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi.
While for Abe the meeting was diplomatically significant — a chance to discuss the disputed Kuril islands face-to-face with Putin — for the White House, it was an unwelcome fissure in the united front Washington has instructed its allies to construct against Moscow. It was so unwelcome, in fact, that Barack Obama had reportedly asked Abe personally not to go to Sochi at al.
Japan is not a country with an abundance of overly-friendly neighbors. Two of them, Russia and China, are consistently strengthening ties. If Tokyo doesn’t get in on that action, it will be to its own detriment. As such, it’s not in Japan’s national interests to play the isolation game with Russia. The more Moscow and Beijing strengthen their relationship, the worse off Japan will be. Tokyo, remember, also has territorial disputes with Beijing over the Senkaku islands. And, in the unlikely event that there is any major improvement in relations between the West and Russia, it would also be prudent for Tokyo to keep things on an even keel with Moscow.
Not to mention that for Russia, improving ties with Japan also makes a lot of sense. One notable expert believes that Asian nations like Japan are “unused reserves” of Russian foreign policy and can provide a counterbalance to too much focus on Beijing. Another observer has accused Abe of “going soft on Russia” at the worst possible time.
The meeting between Putin and Abe, therefore, was diplomatically and geopolitically significant for both. Knowing this, Washington has attempted to exert its influence as forcefully as possible, lest any deeper Russia-Japan friendship grow legs. What should be a delicate diplomatic dance between Moscow and Tokyo is subsequently hampered by the fact that Abe still needs to think about hurting feelings in Washington.
Abe’s wording after the conclusion of his meeting with Putin was interesting. Without much elaboration, he said that the two leaders had agreed on a new approach to resolving the dispute over the Kuril islands. He noted that the peace treaty issue would be resolved “by ourselves” and that Japan would pursue a “future-oriented” relationship with Russia “free of any past ideas”. This kind of talk is not exactly music to Washington’s ears, to say the least. Abe is also believed to have presented Putin with an eight-point plan to strengthen their countries’ ties. No date has been set for Putin’s visit to Japan, but the Japanese prime minister has been invited back to Russia for the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September.
Abe is not stupid. Even if he gets nowhere on the Kurils issue, he knows that balancing the Russia-China relationship is beneficial regardless. Signs so far indicate he is willing to risk displeasing the US in Japan’s better interests.
In an interview with Radio Sputnik, Sophia University Professor Toshihiko Ueno said that even though it would be premature to make any assessments before concrete results had been achieved, the economic cooperation plan proposed by Japan was bound to have a strong impact on the EU.
“Aside from the economic effect it might have, the [eight-point cooperation roadmap] would definitely have a symbolic meaning and eventually lead to a lifting of the anti-Russian economic sanctions by many European countries which are willing to resume mutually-beneficial economic cooperation with Russia,” Professor Ueno said.