5. Russia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus
The strategic environment of the Asia-Pacific region is drastically changing and closer cooperation between Japan and Russia not only serves the strategic interests of the two countries, but also contributes to the stability and prosperity of the region. Such recognition led to some move in 2011 to develop the relations in a positive manner, while the relations between Japan and Russia had not been described as good due to Russia’s hardest position on the issue of the Northern Territories.
In particular, after Great East Japan Earthquake in March, Russia supplied aid in the forms of relief materials and rescue workers7, and proposed to strengthen Japan-Russian cooperation in the field of energy. In addition, youth from disaster-affected areas were invited to visit Vladivostok and Moscow, and there was close communication between the related authorities on the management of damage from nuclear accident.
In 2011 Japan and Russia had two summits and four meetings of foreign ministers along with active consultation and dialogue at an administrative level. Discussions were held between the Japanese and Russian governments about a wide range of fields, such as security, the issue of the Northern Territories, economic matters including nuclear power and energy, and cooperation on the international fola.
There still remains a wide gap between Japan and Russia on their positions concerning the issue of the Northern Territories, the most outstanding issue between the two countries. While the governments of Japan and Russia have been making efforts for the development of cooperation in various fields, it is required more than ever to conclude a peace treaty by resolving the territorial issues, in order to establish a genuine partnership between the two countries.
The countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus8 occupy an important position in geographical terms as the regions link Asia with Europe, and Russia with the Middle East. The maintenance of peace and prosperity in these regions, therefore, benefits the whole of Eurasia. These regions, abundant energy and mineral resources, are also important from the perspective of diversification of natural resources and energy supply of Japan which intends to strengthen its relations with the countries of these regions. Japan is advancing cooperation with the countries of these regions. With regard to Central Asia in particular, Japan is contributing to the regional stability and the promotion of the inter-regional cooperation, as well as promoting broad-ranging cooperative relations with the region under the framework of the “Central Asia plus Japan” Dialogue since 2004.
7 Two relief teams that were totaling 156 workers were dispatched to Japan, and relief materials were received in the forms of 17,200 blankets, 400 personal radiation dosimeters, and 5,000 masks. In addition, aid and donations were received from numerous individuals and organizations as well.
8 The countries of Central Asia refer to the five countries of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, while the countries of the Caucasus refer to the three countries of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia.