The Second Press Conference, 8 July 2008
- Japan-Russian Federation Bilateral Summit Meeting
- Question concerning energy cooperation between Japan and the Russian Federation
- Question concerning the start date for negotiations for a Japan-Russian Federation peace treaty
Press Secretary Kazuo Kodama: Good evening everybody. Thank you for coming to my briefing on the Summit Meeting between the Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev which took place this evening.
Prime Minister Fukuda and President Medvedev conducted a bilateral Summit Meeting on the sidelines of the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit. Prime Minister Fukuda met with Russian President Medvedev for about one hour and 10 minutes this evening. This is the very first Summit Meeting between the two. At the very outset, President Medvedev expressed his appreciation to the Prime Minister for the Japanese Government's swift decision to receive and give medical treatment in Sapporo to a Russian boy who suffered a burn and was flown from Sakhalin. In response, Prime Minister Fukuda mentioned that he sincerely hoped for the boy's swift recovery from the injury.
In the Meeting, the Prime Minister called the president Dmitry and in response the president called the prime minister Yasuo, so they have now established a sort of personal relationship of calling each other by their first names.
Based on the outcome of Prime Minister Fukuda's working visit to Moscow this April - I am sure some of you remember this visit - the two leaders conducted exchanges on quite a wide range of areas in order to elevate Japan-Russia relations onto a higher plane, in all fields. Among the issues they discussed, the two leaders agreed on the following points. On political dialogue, the Prime Minister Fukuda mentioned that in order to advance Japan-Russia relations, it is very important for us to conduct ever closer political dialogue. In response, the president said that he agreed with the prime minister completely that we should conduct open and close political dialogue. Then, it was agreed that in the course of the latter half of this year Russian Prime Minister Putin, Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov, Foreign Minister Lavrov, and Minister of Industry and Energy Khristenko will visit Japan. It was also agreed that the fifth round of Japan-Russia Strategic Dialogue will be held. The exact timing of these visits will be coordinated in due course.
On the issue of Japan-Russia peace treaty negotiations, Prime Minister Fukuda mentioned that in order to elevate our bilateral relationship onto a higher plane, we should resolve the territorial issue which is the only major outstanding political issue between our two countries, and thereby remove the ill feelings of our peoples. In response, the president mentioned that he has no doubt that if the territorial issue is resolved, our relations would be raised to the highest level and that the current relations could be drastically improved. After this kind of exchange, they confirmed the following as their shared understanding as of today.
Number one, deepening cooperation and coordination between Japan and Russia in the Asia-Pacific Region befits the strategic interests of both Japan and Russia. Not only that, such cooperation is necessary for the two countries to contribute to the stability and prosperity in the region.
Number two, the fact that there exists no peace treaty between Japan and Russia, two strategically important neighbors in the Asia Pacific region, is not conducive to the enhancement of Japan-Russia relations on wide-ranging fields. Therefore, both Japan and Russia strongly hope that this issue will be resolved as soon as possible in order to achieve the complete normalization of bilateral relations. Both Japan and Russia have no intention to shelve this issue.
Third, a peace treaty to be concluded must incorporate the final settlement of the territorial issue between our two countries. The final settlement of the issue must befit the interests of both Japan and Russia and must be mutually acceptable.
Then they confirmed the following positive outcome of cooperation thus far achieved and agreed that they would continue to enhance such cooperation. Number one, they welcomed the agreement on the Inter-Governmental Cooperation Program on the Conservation of Eco-systems in the area adjacent to our two countries, including the Sea of Okhotsk. I have distributed for your reference this handout; please have a look at it later. They also agreed to advance cooperation in a concrete manner.
As a footnote, I would add this program tries to address such environmental concerns as follows. Number one, the rapid decrease of drift ice in the Sea of Okhotsk due to global warming. The area of drift ice has been reduced by 20% over the last 30 years according to recent research. Number two, the issue of adverse impact of substances flowing from the Amur River to the Sea. Number three, the issue of trans-border risks such as oil spillage contamination, avian flu and so on. Number four, the protection of the rich eco-system surrounding the Northern Four Islands.
Secondly, they welcomed the prospect for signing the Japan-Russia Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. This treaty is expected to establish more effective cooperation between our two countries thereby contributing to combating crime in both Japan and Russia. In 2007, the two-way human exchange figure reached 240,000 people.
Thirdly, the words of appreciation were given by the Russian side on the decision by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) to extend loans with an amount of 3.7 billion US dollars to Sakhalin Energy Corp. which is the leading operator of the Sakhalin II project. This is a co-financing project with a private banking group contributing 1.6 billion US dollars making it a total of 5.3 billion US dollar project.
Fourthly, on the issue of climate change, they agreed that the second Japan-Russia meeting on climate change will be held in September this year.
Fifthly, they confirmed that the negotiation on concluding the Japan-Russia Nuclear Cooperation Agreement has been making substantial progress and agreed to issue their respective instruction to the officials to conclude their negotiations.
Sixthly, they shared the view that the Intergovernmental Working Group on Transportation should expedite its work to substantiate the contents of programs on transport sector cooperation including the revitalization of physical distribution using the trans-Siberian railway. They also agreed that a vice-ministerial inter-regional sub-committee of the Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economy will be convened to follow-up the Initiative for the Strengthening of Japan Russia Cooperation in Far East Russia and Eastern Siberia.
Bearing in mind the No. 31 Kisshin Maru, the name of the Japanese fishing vessel which was shot and captured by the Russian Coast Guard two years ago, Prime Minister Fukuda explained to President Medvedev that such a unilateral action on the part of Russia has been perceived by the Japanese people as an unfriendly act, and in order to prevent the recurrence of such an incident, Prime Minister Fukuda asked President Medvedev to have Russia return the vessel back to Japan in a swift manner. In response, the president mentioned that this incident happened due to the fact that the territorial issue is unresolved so if the territorial issue is resolved swiftly, such an issue would disappear; so that was his response.
On the DPRK, Prime Minister Fukuda mentioned that Japan expects Russia to exercise its influence over North Korea and also mentioned that Japan, supporting the Six-Party Talks, will seek to advance both the denuclearization of the DPRK as well as Japan-DPRK relations including the issue of abduction. Prime Minister Fukuda said that he would like to seek the support of Russia for the denuclearization of the DPRK as well as for the resolution of the abduction issue. In response, the president mentioned that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is important for all the surrounding nations of the DPRK, and Russia has been cooperating in the process of the Six-Party Talks. With respect to the abduction issue, Russia fully understands the issue and intends to continue to cooperate on this issue with Japan.
Very finally, the following is our evaluation of this very first Summit Meeting between our two leaders. I will make three points. Number one, today's Summit Meeting produced the shared understanding that our two countries will further enhance or strengthen the political dialogue between our two countries including the visit by Prime Minister Putin in the latter half of this year. Number two, President Medvedev, in this very first Summit Meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister after assuming his presidency, shared the view on the important issue of the negotiation of a peace treaty with Prime Minister Fukuda. Then based on this common understanding, the two leaders agreed to advance a negotiation, including at the level of the highest political leaders.
And thirdly, they also agreed that our two countries will continue to enhance cooperation in wide-ranging fields. So all in all today's meeting was a very useful one in terms of actively advancing the future bilateral relationship between Japan and Russia.
Q: I was just wondering if the two leaders had time to discuss, in detail, energy cooperation between the two countries, whether President Medvedev and Prime Minister Fukuda shared any opinions about maybe greater participation of Japanese companies in the development of Russia's reserves in the Far East and Siberia, and whether President Medvedev assured Japan of additional LNG supplies, or if they discussed the role of energy supplies by Russia to the Asia-Pacific region and Japan in general. And with respect to the conservation of the ecosystem, did the two leaders discuss possible cooperation in ensuring that new oil projects in the Far East meet environmental standards and would they cooperate in this respect?
Mr. Kodama: As I mentioned, this is the very first meeting between our top leaders to date and as I already explained to you, they covered quite important issues for both countries, including the issue of peace treaty negotiations. Also, those outcomes of cooperation thus far achieved are quite numerous, so I don't think our leaders had time to go into the details of touching on each cooperation item. Also, I want to emphasize that as you all know, the background of the new president, Mr. Medvedev - he was the President or Chairman of Gazprom and he is very well-versed on gas and energy issues and I understand that he fully understands the importance of the Sakhalin II project. That is why I think appreciation was expressed by his side on the extension of loans by JBIC to this project. But again I think they stopped short of discussing any other gas-related issues in this meeting.
III. Question concerning the start date for negotiations for a Japan-Russian Federation peace treaty
Q: You said that Japan and Russia intend to conduct negotiations for reaching a peace treaty. Any idea of when the actual negotiation could start?
Mr. Kodama: I don't have any sort of specific answer to your question. On the other hand, I accompanied both Prime Minister Fukuda and also Foreign Minister Koumura in their respective visits to Moscow in April and I think when Foreign Minister Koumura met with his counterpart, Mr. Lavrov, at his office in early April, they did discuss how to advance the negotiations on concluding a peace treaty, including resolving the issue of the Northern Territories, and certainly, I think both foreign ministries have been instructed by our respective foreign ministers to activate the negotiations on this important issue. So I am sure that through the diplomatic channel both governments are in touch with each other to follow-up on such an instruction; that is my understanding as of today.
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