After decades of tense bilateral relations, a ‘window of opportunity’ opens itself to Japan and Russia: the greater threat of a rising China.
The four islands in the Kuril Island chain, known as Northern Territories in Japan, have been the flashpoint in the two countries’ relations. But the looming threat of China’s rise as an economic and military superpower prompted a turnaround towards resolving the dispute. Vladimir Putin also encouraged talks on resolving the issue when he was elected President in March, saying that “both sides should compromise.”
The gathering of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation ministers in Vladivostok proves to be a timely platform for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to address the issue on the sidelines of the summit. Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference that Russia is ready to negotiate resolutions for the territorial dispute and echoed Mr. Putin on the need for compromise from both sides.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Russia and Japan plans to deepen ties, particularly in the economic front. Trade between the two countries totaled $30 billion in 2011. Japan wants to tap resource projects on natural gas in Russia’s Far East region following the Fukushima disaster last year. Mr. Putin is also seeking further cooperation on technology and joint natural-resource development with Japan.