北方領土訪問 露にも足元見られた民主政権

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 3, 2010)
Russia taking advantage of DPJ-led government
北方領土訪問 露にも足元見られた民主政権(11月2日付・読売社説)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Kunashiri Island in the northern territories on Monday, ignoring Japan's sovereignty. It was quite natural that Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara summoned the Russian ambassador immediately to protest the visit.

Medvedev is the first Russian head of state to make such a visit since the Soviet era.

Since the Russian president expressed his intention in late September to visit the disputed northern territories off Hokkaido, Tokyo has expressed strong concern and asked Medvedev not to do so through diplomatic channels. We find it extremely regrettable that he snubbed the request completely and visited the island.

Some observers speculate that Medvedev's visit was meant to promote himself as a strong leader and consolidate his power base with an eye to reelection as Russian president in 2012.


DPJ has bungled affairs

However, that may not be the only reason. Ever since its inauguration last year, the Democratic Party of Japan-led government has strained Japan-U.S. relations over the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture. It also recently failed to effectively deal with the souring of Japan-China relations triggered by the collision of a Chinese fishing vessel and Japan Coast Guard patrol boats off the Senkaku Islands.

Moscow has apparently exploited confusion in Japan's foreign policy under the DPJ-led government and tried to suppress Tokyo's demands that Russia return the northern islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai group of islets.

To change the present situation, Prime Minister Naoto Kan must overhaul the nation's diplomatic strategies, which are based on the Japan-U.S. alliance, as soon as possible.

Territorial negotiations between Tokyo and Moscow have been deadlocked for decades. While Japan has demanded the return of all of the islands, Russia only has expressed some ideas based on the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration in 1956, which agreed just on the return of Habomai and Shikotan islands after the conclusion of a peace treaty between the two countries.

Medvedev has so far proposed to take a "creative and flexible approach" toward solving the territorial dispute, which is different from the approach adopted during the Cold War years. However, he has only spoken of this approach and not shown any specific substance.

Japan's advanced technology and economic cooperation must be very attractive for Russia, which is trying to promote development in its Far Eastern region, but Medvedev's latest visit inevitably will chill Japan-Russia relations further.

Given the situation, we must be prepared for it to take a rather long time to solve the northern territories issue with Moscow.


Kan must strongly protest

The Russian president is scheduled to visit Japan in the middle of this month to attend the summit meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Yokohama. If Japan-Russia summit talks are held on the sidelines, Kan must resolutely protest Medvedev's provocative behavior.

He also should warn the Russian president that economic relations between the two countries will be negatively affected if Moscow continues to take such a hard-line stance.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 2, 2010)
(2010年11月2日01時35分 読売新聞)

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