Oct 14, 2021
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Premier Kishida began by eating a bit of Kuril

Photo: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Photo: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. (Photo: AP Photo / Shizuo Kambayashi / TASS)

Another Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida suddenly announced that Japan’s sovereignty extends to the southern part of the Kuril Islands. Press Secretary of the President of Russia Dmitry Peskov predictably objected that he was wrong.

The Second World War in Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, as well as on the sparsely populated islets of the Lesser Kuril ridge, which the Japanese call in their own manner Habomai, one might say, continues – legally. In Japan, they make us laugh, and, perhaps, the entire rational world, talking about their “northern territories”. The peace treaty, they say, has not yet been signed. Prenuptial agreements are also not always signed, and nothing, children are born somehow.

According to the new head of the Japanese government, Russia has repeatedly at various levels reaffirmed its political will to continue the dialogue with Japan in order to find solutions to the sensitive issues that remain on the agenda.

Nobody argues with this: we are for peace. The Japanese politician intends to conclude a peace treaty with Russia, and is disposed to persistent negotiations with Moscow, keeping in mind the previous agreements. But from the very beginning he does it in a strange way, leading a monologue according to the principle: “This is mine! Now let’s negotiate how you will give it to me ”…

Expert of the Russia-Japan Society Oleg Kazakov believes that Fumio Kishida is a professional politician:

– He worked as Minister of Foreign Affairs, met with Vladimir Putin, he knows the situation in Russian-Japanese relations well. What he says speaks for a reason, but competently. In fact, he is simply voicing the classic Japanese position on the “northern territories”, on the peace treaty, which has developed over the course of many years.

Under the prime minister Shinzo Abe the mood of the Japanese political elite shifted thanks to his efforts towards a compromise with Russia. We know that the negotiations were conducted at the highest level between Putin and Abe, the atmosphere in Russian-Japanese relations, thanks to these negotiations and efforts on the part of Japan, has warmed up. Many projects started at this time, humanitarian cooperation developed. This is a positive moment in Russian-Japanese relations.

“SP”: – After Abe left, a certain Suga came, whom we somehow did not have time to remember in Russia. Has he done nothing in terms of the development of Russian-Japanese relations?

– It was a period of stagnation. Now a new prime minister has arrived. Most likely, he is now simply fixing his positions in the public sphere on various issues, including Russian-Japanese relations, primarily with a focus on the Japanese public.

Of course, he didn’t say anything new. Naturally, from the point of view of the Russian side, the southern Kuril Islands – de jure and de facto belong to Russia. The statements of Japanese politicians, not only Kishida, but also others that the Soviet Union “illegally occupied” these territories and “must return these territories to Japan”, set the teeth on edge. Naturally, for the Russian mentality, everything looks completely different.

Of course, there is a conflict between the parties in the perception of the problem. Japan has its own understanding of historical truth, its own textbooks. This conflict is difficult to overcome.

“SP”: – But this is not an exclusive conflict. Japan is in conflict with other countries, contesting territories?

– Different perception of historical reality. This is a kind of serious humanitarian conflict that has become part of real politics in recent years. Unfortunately, yes, this hinders the development of international relations.

But Kishida is a cautious person, as I assume, he will not “swing a samurai sword.” I think he will conduct a cautious policy towards Russia.

I would like to hope that the meeting between Kishida and Putin will slightly shift the focus and, possibly, after it some innovations will appear in Russian-Japanese relations. Or, at least, in Japan’s approaches to Russia.

Probably, this meeting will take place next year. Some issues will be touched upon, some shifts are possible in the direction of correcting Japan’s plans with regard to Russia, in the direction of large-scale cooperation. The territorial problem, the signing of a peace treaty can again fade into the background, without interfering with the development of relations between the countries.

“SP”: – The Kuril Islands – what is the main problem of Japan?

– The priorities for Japan are related to the pandemic. This is a big internal problem, but the situation is on the mend, the number of patients is sharply decreasing, vaccination is widely spread – this is a big plus for Kishida. The previous Prime Minister Sugo was very “kicked” for allegedly doing something wrong and doing something wrong. Now this problem is being solved.

A key foreign policy challenge is building relationships with the United States, as well as building relationships with other partners who are forging a new coalition called the Group of Four that will contain China. For Japan, the threat from China and North Korea is a priority foreign policy issue.

“SP”: – We now have “territorial problems” in the West, but in relations with Ukraine now the argument is used: “This is not an independent country. What to talk to a vassal? We will negotiate with the lord. ” Will this argument be applied in relations with Japan?

– Still, these are different situations. You cannot compare Ukraine with Japan, this is puzzling. First, Japan has always conducted a dialogue with the Soviet Union (after the war) and with Russia now exclusively within the framework of diplomacy. There have never been any threats related to weapons and violence. Japan is behaving very correctly. The principle of Japan’s general post-war policy is to solve problems with the help of “soft power”. This is right. Japan does not have the ability to include any power resources. Japan’s rhetoric itself is quite delicate.

The second point: although Russia and Japan have been cooperating for a long time, in the minds of many Japanese it is not postponed that Russia is their closest neighbor.

I don’t think the Japanese have any intention of breaking off relations with Russia. The main problem of the Japanese side is that politicians have been assuring the Japanese people for many years that, they say, these islands were “seized by the Soviet Union illegally. One has only to raise this issue and everything will come back. ” Wait.

But for decades, the problem has not been resolved, because neither the Soviet side nor the Russian side accepts the paradigm of the end of World War II that Japan has. We see these processes in different ways.

“SP”: – There are different formal historical documents in this regard …

– This is, for example, the joint declaration of the USSR and Japan, where nothing is written about the fact that the Soviet Union is recognized in the illegal seizure of the islands.

Our position is quite correct – these islands are Russian. If the Japanese want to raise issues related to changing the border, let them argue, we will figure it out. If they want to sign a peace treaty, they can sign it, but in such a way that it meets mutual interests. So far, unfortunately, no compromise has been reached.

Japan remains in the paradigm that it has invented for itself, having driven itself into this “pit”. I think that if this continues, there are no prospects for solving this problem. But this does not mean that we should not develop relations in all other areas.

Apart from the territorial problem, which is being imposed on us, we have practically no other contradictions with the Japanese. We need to discuss, communicate, given that certain complex processes are taking place in the Pacific region. The security problem is becoming more and more acute. Cooperation with Japan in terms of safety is very important.

“SP”: – Maybe it’s time to stop chatting about these “northern territories”?

– The policy of silence does not lead to good results. It creates tension in society. Nothing good about that.

There are a huge number of people in Russia who sympathize with Japan. In Japan, there are also people and organizations that sympathize with Russia, conduct some kind of work with our country, for example, Russian language courses. There may not be as many of these organizations as we have in Russia, but nevertheless they do exist.

If harsh words are spoken at a high level about Japan or about Russia by Japan, it will put people in an unpleasant situation. This may cause a backlash from the leaders of the Russian regions, who will exert a certain amount of pressure on public organizations, on people, so that they do not explicitly show their sympathy.

“SP”: – The head of Kurilsk has already responded to the statements of the Japanese Prime Minister that amendments to the Constitution have recently been adopted, which say about the inadmissibility of alienation of territories. According to him, residents of the Kuriles unanimously voted for these amendments.

– It is impossible to write something in the Constitution of Russia for the Japanese to follow our Constitution. Our basic law works only on the territory of the country.

Why not hold festivals now, not watch Japanese cinema? It will be a certain information or ideological bomb dropped on Russian-Japanese relations. And this, by the way, is what the United States has been striving for for many years. They pursued a policy of discord and created all sorts of situations, including the signing of treaties: the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, the 1956 USSR-Japan Joint Declaration, in the preparation of which American diplomacy actively participated in order to introduce certain points that could then be used to drive wedge between our country and Japan. We don’t need this.

“SP”: – In legal jargon, this is called “bookmarks” … Speaking of “prohibition”, I tried myself as a “devil’s advocate”. This is, of course, a half-joking proposal, since I myself am a great admirer of Japanese literature, I sometimes watch their anime. But how can we finally put an end to the old territorial dispute?

– Russia and Japan should work out a certain position that would suit both countries in the strategic aspect. It is necessary to go politically towards some common goal, while not interfering with the absence of a peace treaty between the two countries and a border treaty. It is necessary to build multifaceted relations, pushing the territorial problems into the background.

In the current situation, we need to carry out some kind of information policy of enlightening the Japanese in order to change their psychology. It is rather difficult to talk about the historical truth, everyone has their own, but a correctly, well-built ideological structure could convince the Japanese that the current demands of Japanese politicians are unthinkable and unrealizable.

Unfortunately, there is practically no Russian presence in the Japanese information space. In our country, on the contrary, many are interested in Japan and everything Japanese. This is the merit, including of Japanese diplomats. Unfortunately, we practically do not see the merits of Russian diplomats on Japanese soil. Although now he works there as an ambassador Mikhail Galuzin, he is a professional diplomat with excellent knowledge of Japan.

Unfortunately, there is no sense of a common policy aimed at developing our “soft power”. As far as I know, our Foreign Ministry is thinking about this. It is necessary to engage in ideological work that would change the psychology of the inhabitants of neighboring countries in favor of Russia. There are no other quick fixes.

“SP”: – And to make the Kuril Islands such that it becomes better there than in Japan? Doesn’t this change the attitude towards us?

– I agree with you one hundred percent. But this is a big problem. Therefore, our prime minister Mikhail Mishustin suggests creating some additional preferential terms for business there. If investors from other countries appear there, a competitive environment will be created. This will spoil the old Japanese paradigm. Japan will have to build its relations with Russia and with those countries whose companies will actively start working there in a completely different way.

This is an absolutely correct line of conduct on the part of Russia. If, of course, the case is brought to an end, and everything does not end with general rantings.

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