Japan must build confidence with Russia for regional stability in East Asia

The Yomiuri ShimbunIt is necessary for Japan to resolve differences in position with Russia on the diplomatic and defense fronts and advance bilateral relations. The government must aim to build up confidence and resolve the issue of the northern territories.

The governments of Japan and Russia held a meeting of their foreign and defense ministers — the so-called two-plus-two talks — in Moscow. In addition to their accord on a policy of cooperating toward North Korea’s denuclearization, the two countries agreed to hold vice-ministerial-level meetings on security issues on a regular basis.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said at a joint press conference that both sides agreed that the denuclearization of North Korea is a common goal for Japan and Russia. It is of no little significance that both countries have shared a common understanding to help stabilize the regional situation in East Asia.

During the meeting, Russia showed its view that sanctions against Pyongyang — imposed on the basis of U.N. Security Council resolutions — should be eased, on the grounds that North Korea has declared its intention to denuclearize.

The process toward the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missiles remains uncertain even after the U.S.-North Korea summit. It has been pointed out that North Korea has continued producing intercontinental ballistic missiles and fissile materials.

In such circumstances, easing the sanctions is impetuous. It is reasonable for Foreign Minister Taro Kono to have called for stringent implementation of the sanctions resolutions.

Multilayered talks vital

Regarding Russia’s military buildup and exercises in and around the northern territories, Onodera called on Russia to act with discretion. The number of Air Self-Defense Force scrambles in response to Russian aircraft totaled as many as 390 in fiscal year 2017.

To advance the peace treaty negotiations, nothing should be allowed to disrupt a tranquil ambience. The government needs to continue urging Russia to restrain itself.

Russia expressed its concerns over the land-based Aegis Ashore missile defense systems that Japan plans to deploy. Onodera explained that the deployment “would pose no threat to Russia.” As the deployment is for the defense of the country, Russia’s claim is unacceptable.

Two-plus-two talks are in nature meetings between allied countries or countries with a close relationship. While the United States and European countries have discontinued their two-plus-two talks with Russia on the grounds of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Japan has maintained the talks, as it attaches great importance to its relations with Russia. Unless constructive dialogue is held, the significance of the talks will be lost.

In their meeting, the defense ministers agreed to coordinate a plan for the Self-Defense Forces’ highest-ranking officer — Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano, the chief of staff of the Joint Staff — to visit Russia within this year. It is important to continuously hold multilayered talks, including talks attended by those in uniform.

The foreign ministers in their meeting agreed to dispatch a fact-finding mission led by the private sector to the four northern islands on Aug. 16-20 to flesh out the details of the two countries’ joint economic activities there. Business managers and others will visit the four islands and study specific business projects, such as tourism and fish-farming.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Russia in September to hold a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The fruits of steady efforts should be consistently utilized for the territorial negotiations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 2, 2018)Speech


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