Diplomatic Bluebook 2015
Japan’s Foreign Policy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map
(1) Situation of Russia
A. Internal situation in Russia
After the “annexation” of Crimea in March, President Putin won the overwhelming backing of public opinion with stronger nationalistic tendency. With this backing, incumbent heads of the local governments “endorsed” by the president and the ruling party the United Russia won a landslide victory in the nationwide local elections held in September.
On the other hand, restriction of freedom of speech and the press was further strengthened through legislations to restrict contents of information disseminated via the Internet and the media ownership ratio by foreign capital. Furthermore, legal changes to expand object range and strengthen the penalties in anti-terrorist/extremism laws and tighten supervision of financial activities of foreign entities were made one after another, in order to further enhancing the control of civil society.
As for the structure of the federal government, a “Ministry of Crimean Affairs” was newly set up in March followed by the establishment of a Ministry of North Caucasus Affairs in May, and abolishment of Ministry of Regional Development was decided in September.
B. Russian Economy
In recent years, the Russian economy saw low growth influenced by the European economic situation, etc. The economy rapidly worsened due to the huge impact of falling international crude oil prices accompanied with the sanctions against Russia by the United States, EU and other nations in relation to Ukrainian situation in the latter half of 2014.
The ruble dropped by about 50% against the US dollar since the beginning of the year, falling over 20% in one day on December 16. Outflow of capital increased to 151.5 billion US dollars in 2014 which was around 2.5 times the amount of 2013. After the embargo on agricultural products, etc. was introduced in August as a countermeasure against the Western countries, inflation accelerated especially for food and the inflation rate reached 11.4% in 2014. In this situation, domestic investment and consumption declined, and this made the growth rate as low as 0.6% in 2014.
C. Russian Diplomacy
Russia took countermeasures against the sanctions imposed by the United States, EU and other nations in relation to the Ukrainian situation including “annexation” of Crimea by Russia, which deepened the antagonism between Russia and the Western countries.
On another front, Russia continued to develop its strategic partnership with China by holding five summits and signing agreements and political documents for cooperation of natural gas, etc. The few countries also cooperated in multilateral frameworks such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS Summit Meeting.
Considering the countries of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) as the priority region for its foreign policies, Russia puts much efforts into their economic integration. In January 2015, Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Armenia launched the Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC). On the other hand, there were frictions with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova that signed an association agreement with the EU.
(2) Japan-Russia Relations
Placing importance on the development of the Russian Far East and East Siberia, Russia is actively strengthening relations with the Asia-Pacific region that is a center of growth of the world economy. Developing relations with Russia as a partner in the Asia-Pacific region contributes not only to Japan’s national interests but also to the peace and prosperity of the region as a whole. Japan and Russia have developed cooperative relations in various fields including security, economy and human exchange, whereas the Northern Territories issue restricts development of Japan-Russia relations. The government of Japan is strenuously working to resolve the issue and conclude a peace treaty with Russia.
B. Japan-Russia Relations and the Situation in Ukraine
In response to the deterioration of the situation in Ukraine (for the details, see Chapter 2, Section 4, page 125), Japan repeatedly urged Russia by various levels including the top level to play a constructive role toward a peaceful settlement. In March, April, July, September and December, five times in total, Japan took measures to suspend the issuance of entry visas and freeze assets, against the designated individuals, prohibit to issue securities in Japan by designated Russian Federation banks and restrict import of goods originating from Crimea. In response, Russia took “counter measures” including postponement of the vice-ministerial level consultation that was to be held in August and prohibition of entry of specified Japanese nationals. Although the situation in Ukraine led to the difficult maneuvering in Japan-Russia relations as described above, Japan continued political dialogues including Japan-Russia summits during the ASEM Summit (Italy, October) and APEC Summit (Beijing, November) while steadily implementing cooperation in economy, security, culture and other respective fields.
C. The Northern Territories and Negotiation for a Peace Treaty
Northern Territories Issue is the greatest concern between Japan and Russia. Japan’s position is that the four islands belong to Japan. The Government of Japan has been energetically continuing negotiations with Russia under its consistent policy of resolving the issue of the attribution of the four Northern Islands and concluding a peace treaty with Russia on the basis of the agreements and documents made by the two sides so far, such as the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration of 1956, the Tokyo Declaration of 1993, the Irkutsk Statement of 2001, and the principles of law and justice.
When Prime Minister Abe visited Russia in April 2013, both leaders agreed to jointly give instructions to each country’s Ministries of Foreign Affairs to accelerate the negotiations toward finding mutually acceptable solutions. Based on this agreement, generally honest discussions including historical and legal aspects of the Northern Territories issue were held at the vice-ministerial level consultation in Tokyo in January 2014. At the Japan-Russia foreign ministers’ meeting held during the Munich Security Conference (Germany, February) and the Japan-Russia summit meeting held during the visit of Prime Minister Abe to the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony, broad dialogues were conducted including on that issue. However, the situations in Ukraine overshadowed Japan-Russia relations. Russia’s unilateral cancelling of the vice-ministerial level consultation scheduled in summer and others brought a difficult situation for Japan-Russia relations. Nevertheless, after a brief Japan-Russia summit (Italy, October) during the ASEM Summit Meeting, both leaders took enough time to make a honest exchange of views on the issue of concluding a peace treaty and agreed to start concrete preparation for President Putin’s visit to Japan at an appropriate time in 2015 during the APEC Economic Leader’s Meeting in Beijing.
Japan is actively working on projects contributing to improvement of atmosphere for resolution of the Northern Territories Issue, such as the four–islands exchange programme, free visits and visit to graves. Japan is also promoting cooperations such as disaster prevention and ecosystem conservation in adjacent areas of the two countries including the four Northern Islands.
D. Japan-Russia Economic Relations
Japan-Russia economic relations have steadily expanded for the past several years but Japan-Russia trade volume in 2014 slightly fell to about 34.1 billion US dollars from the record high of the previous year (about 34.8 US dollars). Since Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Russia in April 2013, economic cooperation between Japan and Russia has expanded in healthcare, urban environment, agriculture, energy conservation and other fields. The Government of Japan has been making regular efforts together with Japanese companies toward steady progress in Japan-Russia economic relations.
The trade and investment environment of Russia made some improvements through the country’s accession to the WTO in 2012, but Japanese companies still face problems. Japan urges Russia for further improvement of this environment taking advantages of the frameworks for dialogue such as using the third meeting of “the Japan-Russia Working Group on institutional problems for improvement of the trade and investment environment” (Moscow, October), and the fourth meeting of the Russian-Japanese Advisory Council on modernization of the Russian economy (Vladivostok, December). In the energy field, the Sakhalin Project, an oil and natural gas project which Japanese companies participate in, is progressing. Japanese companies are also involved in LNG plant construction projects in the Russian Far East and the Yamal Peninsula.
In addition, Japan Centers in six cities in Russia support business activities of the companies of both countries and inter-regional economic exchanges. They offer some training programs, such as management courses, Japanese language courses and training in Japan for the people who are expected to play an important role in Japan-Russia economic relations. A total of some 64,000 Russian people have taken the courses and about 4,500 of them have come to Japan for training.
E. Cooperation between Japan and Russia in Various Fields
In addition to sharing views and policy on major regional issues such as those concerning North Korea, Iran and Syria, Japan and Russia cooperate in specific fields through implementation of the project for training of Afghan drug control officers. In the security field, with the establishment of the National Security Council (NSC), Secretary General Yachi of the National Security Secretariat visited Russia, met with Secretary Patrushev of the Security Council and Foreign Minister Lavrov and exchanged opinions with them. Cooperation in the security field also continued. For example, a Japan-Russia joint search and rescue exercise by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Russian Navy carried out in October and a joint exercise by Japan Coast Guard patrol ships and Russian sea rescue-authorities. For human exchange, in addition to active exchange activities using the framework of the Japan-Russia Youth Exchange Program, there have been vigorous exchange activities in traditional and contemporary culture. In the field of sports, Prime Minister Abe attended the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics, and more than 40 programs were carried out in Japan and Russia after the prime minister and the president declared that 2014 would be the “Japan-Russia Budo (Martial Arts) Exchange Year” at the Japan-Russia Summit in April 2013. Prominent examples are: the spouse of Prime Minister Abe made a demonstration of Naginata (a kind of halberd) on the occasion of the performance of the Russian martial arts delegation who visited Japan in October, and President Putin attended a public demonstration of Budo when a Japanese Budo delegation (led by Vice-president Komura of the Liberal democratic Party) visited Russia in November.