Question: …What can you say to ordinary Japanese people on Russian-Japanese relations?
Vladimir Putin: …As for the progress and the present state of Russian-Japanese relations, I can say the following: when we admire nature, its harmony always impresses us. I think we should work for similar harmony in interstate relations.
In this connection, I may say that the beginning of this century found Russian-Japanese relations at a height they had not attained for a long time. We owe this breakthrough to efforts of the Japanese and Russian public and leadership over the last several years.
Nothing matters more, to my mind, than the shared principles that are guiding Japan and Russia in politics. These are democratic principles in economics and the laws of the market.
We are working to spread such principles to interstate relations. We want interstate relations—Japanese-Russian relations, in this instance—to be as open as possible, and rest on equality and respect for each other’s lawful interests.
We largely share opinions on key international issues, especially in the spheres of security, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear technologies, and in the fight against new challenges facing humanity today, especially with globalisation making headway.
Russia and Japan are effective enough as they co-ordinate their joint action on the international scene. Despite certain difficulties, there is progress in economic co-operation and cultural exchanges. All this allows us to conclude that our partnership is presently at a level high enough to provide a basis for tackling problems unsolved to this day.
I must say that we are not pretending there are no such problems. That is very important, I think. Of no smaller importance is our approach to tackling those problems. We sincerely wish to conclude a peace treaty with Japan, that includes frontier delineation.
This is a complicated issue of extreme importance. What matters most, as I see it, is that today we have managed to attain a confrontation-free discussion. It lays the basis for settling the problem that now persists. We have good prerequisites for it, I repeat.
Question: Our leaders agreed in Krasnoyarsk to do everything possible for the peace treaty to be signed in 2000. This goal was not achieved despite the parties’ efforts. What, do you think, did we lack? And what do you think of those efforts?
What use can be made of the 1956 Soviet-Japanese Declaration? In what direction are we to look for the prospects of settling the peace treaty issue?
Vladimir Putin: You are right that an agreement was reached in Krasnoyarsk for both parties to make efforts for a peace treaty. The goal of signing it in 2000 was not set there—the parties merely agreed to make the necessary efforts for signing the treaty.
If we were to evaluate efforts made towards this goal, I would estimate them rather highly. I think the positive achievements I mentioned as I was answering your first question were made mainly following the Krasnoyarsk agreements. As we know, Russia took steps to meet Japan halfway on certain key issues—for instance, unimpeded visits to the islands by the people who lived there before 1945. That was major humanitarian progress. I think it provides a sound basis for our further contacts in that sphere.
We signed a document in 1998 for Japanese participation in fishing in that area. In this, the Russian stance was flexible enough for the patterns suggested and implemented in the agreement to be, I think, unprecedented in the international practice of similar treaties.
As I see it, the very idea of developing economic contacts, cultural links and so on is extremely positive and, as I have said, creates good conditions for developing our relations and finally settling issues persisting to this day.
As for the Declaration of 1956, I would like to remind you what it says. The Soviet Union agrees to pass two islands to Japan if the treaty is signed. The USSR Supreme Soviet ratified the Declaration, so it is a binding document for us.
It has the signing of a peace treaty as a proviso, I repeat. The Declaration does not specify the terms on which the islands are to be ceded. It is all up to negotiations. We are ready—I say it again—to continue our dialogue in this complicated sphere in the spirit of neighbourly relations and respect for each other’s interests, and with due account for all agreements the two countries reached previously.
Question: What have you prepared for the Irkutsk meeting? Putting it differently, what do you intend to discuss with our Prime Minister?
VLADIMIR PUTIN …Excellent personal relations connect me with Mr Mori. We are ready with a wide range of questions to discuss. I think, for example, we shall discuss the co-ordination of both countries’ efforts in the international arena in the region and the world.
I know the Japanese attitude to the problems of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. I know how painfully the Japanese respond to issues pertaining to the proliferation of missile technology—which means to the architecture of international security as a whole. Japan is one of our principal partners on the international scene, so I am sure the theme will come up in discussion.
We shall certainly talk about trade and economic contacts. We have many problems to settle in this field. We spend a lot of time discussing those problems in sufficient detail. Progress in this sphere is not so rapid as we would like, so this theme will be in the foreground.
We shall surely discuss the issues you have just mentioned—the peace treaty and frontier delineation. To bypass the most acute problems is the last thing Russia wants. We are sure their solution will be directly proportionate to the level of our relations. So we not merely welcome the intention of the Japanese party and our partners—in this particular instance, of Mr Mori, my partner and colleague—to step up our relations in all fields mentioned here. We are also willing to make the most dynamic progress in this direction to meet our Japanese friends and colleagues halfway.