Ilyshev Alexander. On Some Approaches to Solving Problems in Russian-Japanese Relations
08.10.2013 г.

On Some Approaches to Solving Problems in Russian-Japanese Relations

Alexander Ilyshev

An intense and expanding political dialogue has been going on in recent years between Russia and Japan: meetings and contacts at all levels, including the highest, visits by foreign ministers, consultations between deputy ministers, contacts on security, in particular between the Security Council of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, etc.

Regular talks and contacts at various levels serve as a tool for generating documents relating to the further development of relations and finding solutions to a number of issues, including the problem of a peace treaty.

During his two visits to Russia this year, former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori stressed that all the conditions have now been created for a major rapprochement between the two countries.

A study of historical documents and a review of existing realities clearly indicate that at this stage the two countries need a new basic treaty that would not only provide an additional factor of stability, but would also allow to implement long-term plans.

With Russia and Japan establishing partnerships in the Asia- Pacific region, the conclusion of such an agreement between them will contribute to the strengthening of peace and stability in the region, will give a new impetus to regional diplomacy, including the development of relations with other regional powers such as China, India, and Republic of Korea, etc.

Russia, notably, has such documents with several leading countries, such as the UK - the Treaty on Principles of Relations signed n 1992, and with Asia-Pacific countries: with China - The Treaty of Good-neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation of 2001, with the Republic of Korea - The Treaty on Basic Relations of 1992, and so on. As for the Russian-Japanese relations, the basic legal document is still the Joint Declaration of 1956. This document states that the state of war between the two countries was terminated, while peace and good-neighborly friendly relations were being restored. The Declaration also called for the continuation of negotiations on a peace treaty.

According to a classic of modern sociology, P.A. Sorokin, there is a growing trend in today's world towards the formation of a new social and cultural environment integrated with the growing role of the Asia-Pacific region. Many states in the Asia-Pacific region tend to make links with each other closer and more dynamic, and to develop them on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and common interests, and to expand cooperation in various fields, especially in the economic sphere.

Given these factors, Russia and Japan, in building further relationships, need to strengthen the core of equilibrium and maintain a steady balance so as to reveal more fully the potential of development and to encourage cooperation on a sustainable basis. To use the language of mathematics, the model of Russian-Japanese relations can be presented as a triangle whose height will continue to increase if the vectors of both its ends equally tend towards the acme. The balance is disrupted, however, if one of the sides exerts a strong pressure on the other. A bend appears in the special model, as it were, which may, under certain circumstances, disrupt the stability of the Russian- Japanese relations.

The history of relations between the two countries has more than a few records of periods of cooling and even direct confrontation. Yet each time, the sides managed to find a way to bridge the gaps and restore interaction on the same level. Moreover, a strong commitment to mutual understanding and trust apparently prevails among the peoples of the two countries.

In the course of his negotiations with the Prime Minister of Japan in Moscow this April, the president of Russia reminded him of the joint construction by Russian seamen and the residents Simoda of a ship to enable the return of Vice-Admiral E.V. Putyatin's mission after the signing of the bilateral Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1855. More than 150 years have passed since that time and conditions have changed, yet the principle of trust as a basis for reaching agreements has remained unchanged.

At present, the most critical is the territorial aspect of the problem of peace treaty between Russia and Japan. In the course of the ongoing negotiations the parties exchange views on how to address this problem while taking into account interpretations of earlier documents and agreements; the sides also analyze in detail legal international aspects of the problem and consider the full range of issues related to the mutually beneficial cooperation between Russia and Japan. It appears that an appropriate approach to resolution of the peace treaty problem ought to take place in the context of realities of the multipolar world and the new social and cultural environment in which human beings occupy the principal place.

It is important that political differences should not impede the socio-economic development of the Kuril Islands and improvement of the living conditions of their Russian citizens. The Russian government has recently taken consistent steps in this direction. Meanwhile, Russia continues to implement the bilateral agreements to facilitate visits by former Japanese residents to their former homes on the islands and to care for the graves of their ancestors. The tool for cooperation in the fisheries in the islands is the 1998 Agreement on some issues of cooperation in the field of fisheries marine living resources (The author was directly involved in the preparation and signing of the agreement).

It seems that greater use of the "soft power" method may make it easier to find solutions to difficult issues in Russian- Japanese relations than reliance on pressure of any kind. One of the most active proponents of this method is the prominent American political philosopher of Japanese background Francis Fukuyama.

This approach seems most appropriate for the parties to proceed to a common understanding of goals, objectives, and other factors involved in the solution of the problem, an approach that will ensure success in the negotiations.

Hopefully Japan, which has the reputation of a country that respects tradition and is oriented towards the future, will demonstrate a balanced and responsible attitude to issues related to its historical past, which in turn will create preconditions for a steady development of Russian-Japanese relations and cooperation. After all, the future is always based on the past.