President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen,
Talks with the Prime Minister of Japan were held in a business-like and constructive atmosphere, and have just ended.
I want to mention that Mr Shinzo Abe and I maintain close working contact. This is our fourth meeting in six months. Most recently, in November and December 2018, we met in Singapore on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit and in Buenos Aires at the G20 summit. This dialogue at the highest level is reinforced by strong interaction in the Russian-Japanese Intergovernmental Commission, the two countries’ security councils, their foreign and defence ministries, including in the 2+2 format, and in the national parliaments. I believe that this intensity of political ties serves as confirmation of the interest of the two countries to develop cooperation based on the principles of good neighbourliness, respect and consideration for each other’s interests.
It was in such a positive manner that the Prime Minister and I discussed the bilateral agenda. As is customary, priority was given to the prospects for expanding trade and investment ties. We noted the gradual growth of mutual trade. In January-November 2018, volume increased 18 percent to almost $20 billion. Japanese investment in the Russian economy is about $2.2 billion.
The joint work on implementation of the initiatives that Mr Abe and I approved earlier continues. I am referring to the Japanese Plan of Cooperation in eight areas, which, as a matter of fact, was proposed by the Prime Minister, and the Russian list of priority investment projects. Japanese entrepreneurs are investing in many sectors of the Russian economy and participate in both the St Petersburg Forum and the Eastern Economic Forum.
There is much potential for enhancing energy cooperation. Gazprom, Mitsui and Mitsubishi are building a third technological line at the LNG plant as part of the Sakhalin-2 project. The possible involvement of our Japanese partners in the Arctic LNG-2, the Baltic LNG projects and the construction of an LNG terminal in the Kamchatka Territory is being studied. Russian experts are developing neutron detectors to identify damaged fuel to mitigate the consequences of the accident at the Fukushima-1 NPP.
Cooperation in transport and infrastructure is expanding. Last December Japanese companies purchased a 10 percent stake in the company that is managing the upgrade of Khabarovsk Airport. Joint trial runs of container shipments via the Trans-Siberian Railway were carried out. If they become regular, supplies of Japanese goods to third countries via Russian territory will increase manifold. Transport development along the Northern Sea Route, for LNG exports to Japan and states in the Asia-Pacific region, looks promising.
Thus, in general, Russian-Japanese economic cooperation is making steady progress. There are obvious achievements on this track. However, both Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and I share the view that a qualitative change has not yet been made and that the potential for bilateral cooperation has not been realised in full. Therefore, we discussed the development of more ambitious plans to expand economic ties in key areas: from trade to investment and technological cooperation. In particular, it will be possible, already in the coming years, to set a goal to increase Russian-Japanese trade by at least 50 percent to $30 billion.
We noted an increase in cultural contacts. The Russian-Japanese Cross Years of Culture, which Mr Abe and I launched in May 2018, are enjoying success. The programme includes over 400 different events held in our respective countries. Russia and Japan are co-hosts of the International Theatre Olympiad which will be held in St Petersburg and Toyama in the second half of the year and which will bring together performers from 30 countries.
Of course, we discussed the prospects for concluding a peace treaty. The Prime Minister and I spent a lot of time discussing this issue. We have been in dialogue with Mr Abe on this matter for several years now. In Singapore, we agreed with the Prime Minister to base the negotiation process on the 1956 Joint Declaration of the Soviet Union and Japan. This primarily provides for the conclusion of a peace treaty. We reiterated our interest in having this document signed. We appointed our respective foreign ministers as coordinators and they held the first round of talks in Moscow on January 14 and reported the results to us today.
I emphasise that there is long and painstaking work ahead to create proper conditions for reaching mutually acceptable solutions. Our goal is to ensure the long-term and comprehensive development of Russian-Japanese relations at a high-quality level. Of course, the decision that the negotiators will come up with should be acceptable to the peoples of Russia and Japan and supported by both. We agreed to continue our efforts to organise joint economic activities on the southern Kuril Islands in five previously approved areas, specifically, aquaculture, greenhouse farming, wind power generation, tourism and waste treatment, that is, addressing environmental issues.
In closing, I would like to thank the Prime Minister of Japan and all our Japanese friends and colleagues for the productive and informative exchange of opinions today. The discussion was candid and meaningful. I believe that this visit will be beneficial for our bilateral relations and will bring us closer to resolving the key issues of cooperation.
Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe (retranslated): I was in Moscow eight months ago in May. With this winter cold and this coat of white snow, Moscow looks even more impressive.
Today, shortly after the new year began, President Putin and I were able to frankly discuss prospects for cooperation between Japan and Russia in various areas. This is a great start for Japanese-Russian relations in 2019.
Eight months ago, Vladimir and I, here in Moscow at the Bolshoi Theatre, announced the start of the first ever Japan-Russia cultural cross year. Now, six months later, we can say that the first half of the cross year was a success with over 500 events held in our countries. I hope that during the next six months (the President and I are expected to participate in the cross year closing ceremony in June) our cultural ties at various levels will become even stronger.
The number of Russians who visited Japan last year reached an all-time high. In general, the number of reciprocal visits is growing rapidly. Last year, it was about 100,000 tourists in each country. Last year, a large number of Japanese football fans went to Russia for the World Cup. They enjoyed a warm reception in all regions of your country. In Japan, a large number of football fans were fighting off sleep – there is the time difference between our countries – as they struggled to watch live televised broadcast of the matches and could feel the atmosphere of various Russian cities. We have set ourselves a goal to add even more dynamics to this trend and, by 2023, double the number of visits, that is, 200,000 tourists in each direction for a total of 400,000.
We will strive to make our economic ties closer and to develop ties in various areas of tourism and, of course, region-to-region relations as well as ties between our universities so that Japan and Russia can reach this goal.
Relations between the deputies and the parliaments of our countries continue to develop. Last July, President of the House of Councillors of the National Diet visited Russia and delivered a speech in the Russian Senate. This was the first such event in the history of the relations between our countries.
In December last year, the Japan-Russia Parliamentary Friendship Association signed a memorandum of understanding on further cooperation. Inter-deputy and inter-parliamentary relations are an important pillar in the development of Japanese-Russian relations, and we will support it this year.
More than two and a half years have passed since I proposed an eight-point cooperation plan. Over 170 projects came to life. Last month saw the beginning of the Japanese companies’ participation in the management of the Khabarovsk airport; a samurai bond was issued by Gazprom – such a decision was made. I welcome this constructive attitude from the companies of our countries to conduct business hand in hand.
Two years have passed since President Putin and I, in my hometown of Nagato, declared our sincere determination to conclude a peace treaty with our hands. We took the course to solve this problem based on a new approach. Our cooperation with President Putin is unprecedented: joint economic activities on three islands and two field studies were held, a business mission was sent, the members of which were mainly from private civil agencies, and a roadmap on proposed projects was developed. We see a concrete path ahead.
At today’s meeting, President Putin and I gave instructions to relevant people and agencies to work together clearly and promptly for the speedy implementation of joint economic activities.
Humane measures for the former inhabitants of the islands to visit the graves of their ancestors play a big role in creating confidence between the peoples of both countries on the way to concluding a peace treaty. In light of the agreements reached in Nagato, this was the first visit to these graves by plane. Today at the meeting, the President and I confirmed the significance of such activities and agreed that visiting the graves of ancestors by plane this year will be implemented in the summer.
President Putin and I spent a lot of time discussing the peace treaty today without hiding anything from each other.
President Putin and I welcome the fact that concrete talks began between our respective foreign ministers last week based on the agreement the President and I reached in Singapore, which is designed to expedite the talks on a peace treaty based on the 1956 Joint Declaration. We welcome the fact that the discussion during these talks was honest and serious. We instructed our foreign ministers to hold the next round of talks on the sidelines of the security conference in Munich in February, and our special heads of state representatives to take the talks to the next level.
This issue has remained without a resolution for over 70 years since the end of WWII. This is not an easy task to deal with, but we must resolve it. Under the firm leadership of President Putin and me, we must join our efforts and work energetically to ensure even greater trust in relations between the citizens of Japan and the citizens of Russia, the relations of friends, and the search for a mutually acceptable solution. Today, President Putin and I reiterated our determination to do this work.
To deepen trust in the sphere of security, this year we will expand ties between our respective defence ministries and border services. Japanese-Russian cooperation has already yielded a number of successful results in countering non-conventional threats, such as drug trafficking. We will be enhancing these efforts and expanding the scope of cooperation.
With regard to North Korea, our countries will continue to cooperate, because peace and stability in Northeast Asia is a major and common goal.
This year, we will be looking forward to a number of important events, such as the transfer of the throne from the emperor to the crown prince and a meeting of the G20 leaders in Osaka. In June, we invite Vladimir Putin to Japan for the G20 Summit. I look forward to our next meeting, the meeting of the leaders of Japan and Russia, as well as the closing ceremony for the cross years, which we will hold together.
In September-November, the Rugby World Cup will be held in Japan for the first time. The opening match will be held between the national teams of Japan and Russia. I am sure that both teams will show the best of what they have, and whatever team wins at the final whistle, we will congratulate and celebrate each other for a beautiful game.
May 2019 be a productive, eventful and good year for the citizens of Japan and Russia.
Thank you very much.