Question: Mr Putin, what is your opinion about the level of interaction between Russia and Japan in the world, including international organisations, on the most pressing world issues?
Vladimir Putin: I am glad that Russia and Japan are entering the new millennium as friends. A solid basis for successful cooperation, especially in international affairs, was created by a trustful dialogue between our leaders, which has been going on since the second half of the 1990s.
It enabled us to deal more effectively with current international issues, and not only in the Asia-Pacific region. It gave a boost to Russian-Japanese cooperation in the framework of international organisations and forums.
This was highlighted by the recent G8 summit in Okinawa. The constructive interaction between the delegations before and during the forum has been made possible thanks to the organisational skills of the Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori. As a result, the G8 adopted a strong stand in favour of the preservation of strategic stability. It gave joint assessments of the state of the world economy, worked out approaches to the problem of information security, the reform of the world financial system and the fight against international terror. It also has to be noted that our delegations “synchronised their watches” several times on the eve of the Millennium Summit discussing the general principles of the behaviour of states in the modern world.
I believe that the G8 provides a good framework for building up the interaction between our countries in developing conceptual approaches to the prevention of armed conflicts. Today it is one of the most important problems of world security. Here the positions of Moscow and Tokyo are much the same, in particular both countries recognize the central role of the UN in settling international problems. By working out common approaches we can reach much in preventing armed conflicts. It is worth recalling that at a certain period the opinion of our countries on the need to steer the Kosovo crisis toward the course of peaceful political settlement under the UN aegis was instrumental in ultimately directing events along that path.
As regards the UN’s role in international settlement of disputes I must stress that we hold close positions on the issue of the UN reform. I think we should seek together to enhance the capacity of that organisation to react promptly and effectively to the new challenges and threats. We come out jointly for the reform of the Security Council and its greater role and authority. Russia supports Japan’s bid to become a permanent Council member and believes that Japan is a worthy candidate for such a status.
Russia and Japan mutually complement each other’s foreign policy efforts in the area of arms control. The latest example of such constructive cooperation was the April conference to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The decisions made in New York are important for moving forward the whole process of nuclear disarmament, including an early coming into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which is a diplomatic priority both for Japan and for Russia.
We also hope that Japan understands how closely interlinked are the processes of strategic offensive weapons reduction and the preservation of strategic stability, on the one hand, and compliance with the terms of the 1972 Russian-American ABM Treaty, on the other.
I am satisfied with the cooperation of our countries under the Missile Technologies Control Regime (MTCR). Russia considers promising the idea of creating a global system of missile technology non-proliferation control.
Our countries, together with the United States and China, play a key role in the politics of the Asia-Pacific Region. The importance of our cooperation on all issues is clear. However, the problem of ensuring security, above all in North-Eastern Asia, is still at the top of the agenda. The emergence of some hopeful trends in the inter-Korean settlement adds greater relevance to this work. We understand that the Russian position is very important both for Japan and for other APR countries.
I would like to take this opportunity to talk about our joint efforts in the framework of the ASEAN Regional Security Forum (ARF). Through the mechanisms of bilateral and multilateral contacts we have advanced towards working out the concepts and principles of preventive diplomacy in the context of the APR.
We are closely cooperating with Japan within the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC). The results of the Auckland summit (September, 1999) are very significant, and we are actively preparing for the next meeting in Brunei in November. Japan seeks to cooperate with us closely in integrating Siberia and the Russian Far East in the processes of international cooperation in the APR. We are aware of the strong support on the part of our Japanese partners.
In this connection we look to further interaction with Japan in involving Russia still more in the system of world economic ties, in the first place in our country’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Our cooperation on international affairs is not, of course, confined to the Asia-Pacific Region. Russia and Japan have geopolitical interests as reflected in our interaction on such important international issues as the Afghan settlement, reducing the possibility of conflicts in South Asia, the Middle East peace process, the situation in the Balkans and many other issues.
Such a level of international cooperation can definitely be considered a serious achievement of the two countries and an important factor in the progress of Russian-Japanese relations towards a creative partnership.
Question: It looks as if Moscow and Tokyo will not manage to sign the peace treaty before 2000 is out, as envisaged by the Krasnoyarsk accords. Do you believe the issue will be a stumbling block for the further development of relations between our countries or will Russia and Japan still manage to pursue partnership in various areas?
Vladimir Putin: The relations between Russia and Japan are developing with a view into the future, so we have a genuine interest in resolving the Kuril problem. At the Krasnoyarsk summit the parties agreed to exert their best efforts to conclude a peace treaty by 2000. We do not need convincing of the importance of such a solution. We will undoubtedly continue the negotiations on the peace treaty.
But the relations between the two states cannot be based solely on resolving the old problems. I am sure it would be more useful to look at the territorial problem not as something that separates us, but as something that may unite us.
From my talks with Mr Mori in St Petersburg in April and more recently in Okinawa in July, I got the impression that the Russian and Japanese leaders equally value all the positive achievements of bilateral relations, understand their strategic importance for both countries and are not inclined to put these relations in jeopardy because things are marking time on one, albeit of course, a very important issue. There should be no doubt that we genuinely want the relations with Japan to have the character of a new partnership.
Our countries have many common interests in such spheres as strengthening strategic stability in the world, moving forward the disarmament process, building up the security in North-East Asia, counteracting international terrorism and, bilaterally, in the development of mutually beneficial economic, scientific, technical, cultural and other cooperation.
In a situation of dynamic and many-sided progress of Russian-Japanese relations it will be much easier to look for a mutually acceptable solution to the problem of border delimitation. This is highlighted by the increased Russian-Japanese contacts in the Southern Kuril region. Japanese citizens and former inhabitants of the Kurils can now visit the islands under a simplified procedure, Japanese fishermen operate in the islands’ waters, etc.
In other words, Russian-Japanese relations in recent years have become so strong that even outstanding issues and problems inherited from the past are unable to hinder their successful development.
So I am optimistic about the future of Russian-Japanese relations.