Russia-Japan negotiations will determine if Japan is in control of its foreign policy or the US

Something I have always advocated and that is closer ties between Russia and Japan and it looks as though Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe may attempt diplomacy to bring the two countries closer together. Russian diplomats are well aware though on any negotiations concerning returning the Kuril Islands to Japan will be met with opposition from Russia. Russia is fearful that if the Kuril Islands are settled and Japan takes control of these important strategic islands, Japan would allow American military assets to be located in the islands which would compromise Russia’s pacific naval fleet. This will be a test for Japan to demonstrate just how much Japan as a vassal state of the US can determine its own foreign policy. Russia is serious about developing eastern Russia and has moved to encourage people moving to this region to develop it. The Russia Duma has passed a law to give 2.4 acres of land to any person who is willing to develop agricultural or tourist businesses in the region. A tough life with little infrastructure but this is what Russia is encouraging Japan to do by investing in infrastructure development.

Source: RT News

May 8, 2016

Japan willing to risk US ire over improving Russia ties? Looks like it

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a meeting in Sochi, Russia, May 6, 2016. © Pavel Golovkin / Reuters

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 on Friday.

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 all.

Island diplomacy

The long-running dispute between Russia and Japan over ownership of the Kuril island chain meant that the two countries never signed a peace treaty after World War II. Russia claims ownership of the strategically important territory under the 1945 Yalta accord and argues that the islands — which Russia refers to as the Southern Kurils and Japan knows as the Northern Territories — were handed over to the Soviet Union with Washington’s blessing. Japan disputes this.

The Kremlin kept expectations low for the meeting between the two leaders in Sochi. Russia has plans to build up its military assets on the islands and has singled the territory out for significant socio-economic development. Frankly, no one expects that Putin will suddenly decide to give the islands up — not even Abe.

Nonetheless, Abe believes that if anything will help soften Russia’s stance over the dispute, it will be increased economic and technological cooperation between Moscow and Tokyo, which could help revitalize the Russian Far East. Most observers say, however, that despite Russia’s economic woes, Abe’s hand is weak.

Russia: Putin and Japan’s Shinzo Abe meet in Sochi

Displeasing Washington

But, let the reader not be fooled into believing that the Russia-Japan relationship is to be controlled only by Moscow and Tokyo. The US, naturally, also wants its say. The problem for Japan — a major US ally — is that the diplomacy surrounding the islands dispute is so important, that Tokyo has had to show a rare willingness to go against Washington.

Abe knows that to curry favor with Putin, he must display that he, not the White House, is in control of Japan’s foreign policy. This has been difficult, given the obvious pressure from the US, but it seems to be a risk that Abe is willing to take — even given the awkward timing of the meeting just ahead of a G7 summit in Japan later this month. His refusal to sour his relationship with Putin, has obviously put yet another spanner in the works where US efforts to ‘isolate’ Moscow are concerned.