[Wikileaks] JAPAN: ASO-PUTIN MEETING UNLIKELY TO LEAD TO CHANGES IN

Viewing cable 09TOKYO893, ASO-PUTIN MEETING UNLIKELY TO LEAD TO CHANGES IN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TOKYO893 2009-04-19 22:24 2011-05-10 05:00 SECRET Embassy Tokyo

VZCZCXRO3645
OO RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKO #0893/01 1092224
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 192224Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY TOKYO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2403
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 8872
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 2812
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 4895
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA PRIORITY 3587
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA PRIORITY 5925
RUEHOK/AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE PRIORITY 7388
RUEHKSO/AMCONSUL SAPPORO PRIORITY 4123
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUALSFJ/COMUSJAPAN YOKOTA AB JA PRIORITY
RUACAAA/COMUSKOREA INTEL SEOUL KOR PRIORITY
RHMCSUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA SEOUL KOR PRIORITY
RHMFISS/USFJ  PRIORITY
RHHJJPI/PACOM IDHS HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 4705
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 TOKYO 000893

SIPDIS

MOSCOW PASS VLADIVOSTOK
HELSINKI PASS ST. PETERSBURG

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/17/2017
TAGS: PREL PINR PGOV ECON JA RS
SUBJECT: ASO-PUTIN MEETING UNLIKELY TO LEAD TO CHANGES IN
JAPAN-RUSSIA RELATIONS (C-AL8-02662)

REF: A. TOKYO 00663
¶B. 07 TOKYO 0163
¶C. 08 TOKYO 1074
¶D. 08 TOKYO 0643
¶E. 08 TOKYO 3333
¶F. 07 TOKYO 0697
¶G. TOKYO 0667
¶H. 07 TOKYO 2690
¶I. 06 TOKYO 4665
¶J. STATE 135278

TOKYO 00000893 001.2 OF 004

Classified By: Charge d’ Affaires, a.i. James P. Zumwalt. Reasons 1.4
(B) (D)

¶1. (S) Summary. As Tokyo and Moscow prepare for a possible
mid-May visit by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to Japan,
Embassy Tokyo assesses as small the chances for a dramatic
breakthrough in the Northern Territories dispute. A
resigned acceptance of the status quo, combined with a lack
of leadership on the issue, will prevent the two nations from
either reaching any substantive new accommodation to improve
bilateral relations or, conversely, to risk increased
tensions by raising contentious issues. End Summary.

—————————————-
Status Quo Generally Acceptable
—————————————-

¶2. (S) Japan-Russia relations over the past several months
have been marked by a series of events that seem to portend a
shake-up in bilateral ties. Those recent events include
Russia’s January 28 capture (of yet another) Japanese fishing
boat near the disputed Northern Territories, a January 28-29
dispute regarding Moscow’s insistence that Japanese citizens
submit disembarkation cards as they attempted to deliver
humanitarian aid to the Northern Territories, ex-PM Junichiro
Koizumi’s February 14-20 visit to Moscow, and the February 18
Medvedev-Aso summit on Sakhalin Island. However, while
newsworthy, these events do not signify a major change in
bilateral relations. For better or worse, the status quo is
generally acceptable (and even profitable), and no one wants
to rock the boat by seking major changes in the relationship.

¶3. (S) The February 18 start of liquified natural gas
shipments between Japan and Russia – energy supplies which
Japan desperately needs much more than it needs an immediate
resolution of the Northern Territories issue – will basically
ensure that neither side will risk disrupting the
Japan-Russia relationship. Japanese officials tell Embassy
Tokyo they envision no major changes in Japan’s energy
security policy, which they describe as part of a broader
diversification strategy aimed at reducing Tokyo’s dependence
on oil and gas from the Middle East while avoiding
over-reliance on Russian energy (Ref A). There are
substantial profits to be made by both countries – the
Japanese energy business community finds the Sakhalin I and
II energy arrangements profitable and enjoys a good working
relationship with Gazprom (Ref B ). Additionally, the
Russians have yet to guarantee Siberian reserves will be
piped out through Siberia (vis–vis China) to the Pacific,
though the Russians claim to have begun work on the terminal
at Koz’mino near Vladivostok (Ref C ) – yet another energy
source Tokyo cannot afford to pass up. The Japanese also
want to be involved in Siberian development ) especially as
the Russians eye Japanese rail and energy technology. While
the January 28, 2009 fishing boat incident was unfortunate,
it nonetheless has to be seen in the context of the hugely

TOKYO 00000893 002.2 OF 004

profitable and active fishing industry that most residents of
the Northern Territories are happy about. In short, Tokyo
and Moscow have enormous economic interests at stake and
there is little to gain from shaking up Japan-Russia
relations.

¶4. (S) Furthermore, domestic public opinion in Japan (and
according to our Russian Embassy contacts, also in Russia)
would not tolerate any type of compromise by a political
leader. In that regard, Prime Minister Taro Aso has much
less room for maneuver, given his low poll numbers and
leadership of a ruling Liberal Democratic Party that is on
the edge of an historic loss of control of the Diet. As a
result, no ruling-party politician in Hokkaido would
jeopardize a very popular visa-waiver program used by locals
transiting between Hokkaido and the Northern Territories )
something a hard-pressed LDP would have to take into account
as the party fights for its electoral life.

——————————————–
HIstory, Public Opinion, Aso Factors
——————————————–

¶5. (S) Our Russian Embassy contacts tell us flat out World
War Two plays a gigantic role in Moscow’s thinking on the
Northern Territories. Specifically, the Kremlin considers
the Northern Territories to be the price Japan paid for what
the Russians believe was Tokyo,s treachery in backing Hitler
) and partial compensation for the millions of lives Moscow
lost to Berlin during the war (Ref D). MOFA Russia Division
representatives also confirmed media reports (Ref E ) that
related how the Russians literally laughed in PM Aso,s face
when the Japanese leader complained the Russians were
dragging their feet on Northern Territories discussions.
Despite such setbacks, MOFA officials consistently tell
Embassy Tokyo, with confidence, they believe President
Medvedev has the political will to resolve the Northern
Territories issue and is eager to address the problem.
However, the Foreign Ministry assesses, perhaps naively, the
Russian President is not being adequately briefed by
subordinates on working-level talks carried out to support
Medvedev’s initiatives, and that the Russian leader often
appears to be ill-informed about developments (Ref E).

¶6. (S) PM Aso would be loath to forge ahead in any new
directions after the opposition Democratic Party of Japan
(DPJ), media, academics, and public opinion excoriated him
during his turn as FM for making remarks some interpreted as
a proposal to return only half the land area contained in the
four islands. (Comment: Foreign Ministry contacts told
Embassy Tokyo at the time that then-FM Aso’s remarks,
provided in response to DPJ quetioning that caught Aso
off-guard during a Diet session, were mis-interpreted and
that the FM never meant to imply Tokyo would settle for
partial return of the four islands – Ref F).

¶7. (S) Leading academics from Keio and Aoyama Universities
confirm to Embassy Tokyo that public opinion, while still not
allowing for any dramatic concessions, is placing less value
on the need for a quick resolution to the Northern
Territories issue. Interestingly, Russia’s July 2008 invasion
of Georgia does not appear to have played any part )
positive or negative – in Tokyo,s thinking about whether the
Russians can be convinced to return the Northern Territories.

———————————
Policy/Leadership Vacuum

TOKYO 00000893 003.2 OF 004

———————————

¶8. (S) Japan’s policy toward Russia is delineated by two
agreements. The Japan-Russia Action Plan, the culmination of
then-President Putin’s 2000 Tokyo visit and former FM
Koizumi’s 2003 trip to Moscow, outlines a series of agreed
upon future actions in the fields of political dialogue,
advancing peace treaty negotiations, international
cooperation, trade and economic assistance, defense and
security arrangements, and cultural exchanges. A second
document, titled “”Initiative for Strengthening Japan-Russia
Cooperation in the Russian Far East and Eastern Siberia,””
which former PM Shinzo Abe proposed on the margins of the
2007 Heiligendamm G-8 Summit, calls for private and public
sector cooperation in the fields of energy, transportation,
information and communication, environment, security, health
and medicine, trade and investment, and cultural/tourism
exchanges. Tokyo and Moscow have achieved limited success in
meeting the goals set forth in both documents, including
negotiations on an agreement on the peaceful uses of nuclear
energy (Ref G). However, with neither side willing or able
to achieve a significant breakthrough on the Northern
Territories issue, bilateral summits invariable conclude with
vapidly-worded joint statemnets noting Tokyo and Moscow have
agreed to “”accelerate”” negotiations or to “”raise talks to a
higher level”” – boilerplate language designed to appease
constituencies in both countries.

¶9. (S) Unofficially, Japan lacks a plan to negotiate the
return of the Northern Territories and a leader to step up
and see the plan through. A number of our contacts note that
Aso has few credible advisors on Northern Territories policy
and his leadership style precludes him from listening to
anyone about the problem. Few Japanese organizations, think
tanks, or other entities are developing any policy direction
for him ) including the Foreign Ministry. This policy
vacuum extends to the main opposition DPJ, which Embassy
Tokyo academic experts confirm has not developed a detailed
and serious policy position on Russia or the Northern
Territories. Unfortunaely, most Japanese academic debate
about the Northern Territories is mired in tired, decades-old
debates about the nuance that exists between the 1956 and
1993 declarations ) “”angels on the head of a pin””-type
arguments which have no practical application to finding a
solution to the Northern Territories problem today.

¶10. (S) One noteworthy exception to the stagnant thinking
which permeates the academic community’s approach to Russia
comes from the Policy Council of the Japan Forum on
International Relations, a policy formulation group headed by
Kenichi Ito. In February 2008, a Policy Council sub-team led
by Keio University Professor Shigeki Hakamada drafted a set
of policy recommendations which, while relying on several
well-worn arguments about history and sovereignty,
nevertheless called on Japan to monitor divergences in the
Russia-PRC relationship, particularly with regard to energy
resources, trade, and Central Asia, for opportunities to
advance Tokyo’s relations vis-a-vis Moscow. (Comment:
Attempts to drive a wedge between Russia and China play an
important role in Japan’s offical policy to Moscow – Ref H.)
The Council report also called on Tokyo to re-examine the
types of assistance Japan supplies to Russia, including
humanitarian aid which, according to the study, Moscow no
longer requires.

¶11. (S) Several Japanese opinion-leaders could be in a
position to exert influence if they chose to do so: former PM

TOKYO 00000893 004.2 OF 004

Yoshiro Mori, who himself negotiated the 2001 Irkutsk
statement with then-President Putin and who now heads a
Japan-Russia parliamentary friendship league; former VFM
Shotaro Yachi, designated as Japan’s special trouble-shooting
envoy for various diplomatic problems; and newly-appointed
Ambassador to Russia Masaharu Kono. However, few Japanese
politicians or analysts have any new ideas about how to
resolve the Northern Territories problem. Those who might
would be severely hobbled by domestic political
considerations or the lingering stigma arising from the 2002
Muneo Suzuki scandal. (Comment: Suzuki, an influential Diet
member who also served as Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary to
former PM Keizo Obuchi, reportedly played a key
behind-the-scenes role in pressuring the Foreign Ministry to
modify Japan’s policy toward Russia. In 2002, police
arrested Suzuki for accepting bribes from two Hokkaido
companies which held construction contracts in Russia – a
crime for which he was later convicted and sentenced to two
years in prison.)

————-
Conclusion
————-

¶12. (S) Despite some occasional public posturing, the
Japanese and Russians maintain a healthy, diverse, and
profitable range of contacts across the military, political,
and economic spectrum and are content to leave things pretty
much the way they are. What both sides need, and have so far
succeeded in working toward, is a routine mechanism for
managing the random small-scale crises (e.g. fishing boat
violations, military aircraft incursions) that might, if not
handled correctly, turn into the large-scale diplomatic
incident neither side wants. Witness the quietly effective
way both sides handled the 2006 incident where the Russian
Coast Guard killed a crew member of a fishing boat that
allegedly crossed the Northern Territories demarcation line
(Ref I), or the way Russia dialed back its public rhetoric on
U.S.-Japan BMD cooperation (Ref C). Japan and Russia will
usually quietly find ways to resolve minor festering issues
and continue with business as usual.
ZUMWALT

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