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Japan and Russia: Trade before territory?

With deals worth billions of dollars at stake, we ask if they can settle a a decades-long territorial dispute.

Last Modified: 30 Apr 2013 11:44
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Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is visiting Russia for the first full summit between the countries in a decade. He has taken a delegation of more than 120 business leaders with him to Russia - the biggest ever economic mission to the country.

The two nations have been at odds since Russia declared war on Japan in 1945, and seized four contested islands in the Pacific - a dispute has prevented them from ever concluding a peace treaty.

The dispute centres around four islands in the Pacific - known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuriles in Russia.

Russia acknowledges that such a problem exists but they don't want it to spoil the context right now -  if developments follow the Chinese model ... but this problem was resolved because China used  a soft approach. It did not demand that Russia give up the territories right now, it developed a friendly relationship with Moscow and little by little the problem was solved.

Dimitry Babich, a political analyst  at Russia Profile Magazine

Russia's Vladimir Putin shed some light on the agenda: "Japanese-Russian relations are developing in a progressive, positive way. We have reached a record turnover. However, for countries such as Japan and Russia it is still relatively small, in my opinion. I am certain that we will discuss our key problems today, including the peace treaty between Russian and Japan. We will also discuss some major issues on the region in general."

Japan is the largest importer of liquefied natural gas in the world and it can give Russia the money and technology to develop its under-populated eastern region.

Trade turnover between Russia and Japan hit $32bn last year - a 5.3 percent increase on the year before, and the volume of trade is expected to increase this year.

Figures from January and February show a six percent increase on the same period last year. Most of that trade is from mineral resources, which account for 80 percent of Russia's exports to Japan.

Shinzo Abe was also hopeful about their shared futures: "The potential for our co-operation has not been explored enough yet. Improving the level of co-operation between our partner countries is a necessity of time. This is not only part of the national interests of the two countries, but will also help the stability and well-being of our region, as well as of the world in general. On the basis of this point of view, I would like to exchange opinions with you today in a slow and friendly manner." 

Inside Story, with presenter Jane Dutton, discusses the chances of both Russia and Japan expanding their ties despite their ongoing territorial dispute with guests: Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, project director on North East Asia for the International Crisis Group and a specialist on Chinese foreign policy; Dimitry Babich, a political analyst who writes for Russia Profile magazine; Tomohiko Taniguchi, cabinet secretariat at the Japanese prime minister's office, and is currently travelling with the Japanese prime minister  to Moscow.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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