Ambassador to Japan Galuzin: Relations With Japan Continue to Improve Because of Peace Talks
— Mr. Galuzin, hello, thank you for coming for the interview. Best wishes on the occasion of your professional day! My first question is as follows. Last year was special for Russian-Japanese relations as it was Bilateral Year. How would you evaluate the current state of the bilateral contacts, bilateral relations? And what is to be expected?
Mikhail Galuzin, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russian Federation to Japan: Good evening, Sergey. Thank you for your greetings. First of all, I'd like to stress that indeed, last year was fruitful for Russian-Japanese relations, laying the groundwork for further advances. The good relations that we had last year is primarily thanks to regular and effective dialogue from our countries' leaders, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. As you know, last year they met repeatedly. They met in Saint Petersburg, on the sidelines of the International Economic Forum, in Moscow, for official talks; in Vladivostok, on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum, which Mr. Abe attended traditionally; in Singapore, at the East Asia Summit in November; and, finally, in Buenos Aires on the sidelines of the G20 on December 1st. By this good tradition, the leaders also met in Moscow on December 22nd to hold talks in the Russian capital.
Thus, as we can see, last year we significantly improved the political dialogue, primarily, at the level of the heads of state, but also on all other levels. The Foreign Ministers also held talks. Another very important event, the «2+2 format» talks, took place in Moscow, involving Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and their Japanese colleagues. A considerable boost was given to parliamentary contacts. Mr. Chuichi Date, President of the House of Councillors of the Japanese Parliament, visited Moscow at the invitation of Valentina Matviyenko, Chairwoman of the Federation Council. A delegation of the State Duma, headed by First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma, Alexander Zhukov, paid a working visit to Tokyo.
Moreover, of course, the most important component of Russian-Japanese dialogue is regular contacts between the Security Council Secretaries. The visit by Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Russian Security Council, to Tokyo in October of 2018, was of paramount importance.
To speak about the economy, we were happy to see that trade revenue has increased by 18%, up to about $20 billion in 11 months of 2018. The bilateral economic relations saw new interesting projects like the production of automobile engines by the famous Japanese automotive concern Mazda. This joint enterprise was launched in Vladivostok by the Russian company Sollers and Mazda. The engines are exported to Japan and used when assembling Mazda cars which are further exported to third-party countries or sold in Japan itself. Thus, our manufacturing company concerns set up joint production chains.
Russia-Japan Bilateral Years, launched in May of 2018 by President Putin and Prime Minister Abe on the Bolshoi Theater's historic stage in Moscow, include about 400 various joint events not just in the cultural field, but also the fields of economics, science, and education. For instance, major events such as the Forum for Russian and Japanese University Presidents, which founded the Association of Russian and Japanese University Presidents. A number of cultural events took place, for example, the Russia-Japan Educational Forum. All of these are important components of the Year of Russia in Japan. And no less interesting events will be organized by our Japanese partners.
So, the year turned out to be eventful.
— At the same time, the peace treaty remains on the agenda of all meetings and summits. We've seen an intense information explosion in Japan, an avalanche of articles citing governmental resources which claim that Russia is alleged ready to yield the territory. What is the current state of the peace talks? Is there any progress?
— First of all, I'd like to shine a spotlight on the outcome of the Russia-Japan head-of-state talks held on January 22nd in Moscow during Mr. Abe's visit to the Russian capital. As Vladimir Putin stressed at the press conference following the talks, we'll work long and meticulously to shape the conditions for a mutually acceptable solution. As for us, then and before, we've always pointed out that it's important, necessary, and unconditional that the solution to the problem of the peace treaty be welcomed and supported by the Russian and Japanese peoples.
What is necessary for it in our view? The first and the most important step, as the Russian party has repeatedly stated, is that our Japanese partners must recognize the results of World War II, including Russian sovereignty over the Kuril Islands, notably and primarily the southern Kuril Islands. It's not drawing a line in the sand, it's just that the recognition of the results of World War II is an integral part of modern international relations because these results are enshrined in the UN Charter as non-negotiable.
— So, are the Japanese running before the hounds? In this context, it's obvious that Russia isn't going to yield its territory. Why then are there all of these rumors about yielding four islands, two islands?
— The sovereignty over the islands and yielding them aren't on the agenda of the talks. These rumors were started by the Japanese, not us, so, maybe, the Japanese could give you a more complete answer than your humble interviewee.
— So, Japan doesn't recognize the results of World War II the way we understand them, do they?
— No, that's why we're waiting for them to do so.
— Speaking about the peace talks and the so-called territorial argument, at a summit last year, the two leaders agreed to consider working toward joint economic development on the southern Kurils. What is this joint economic development about? In which format will it be shaped? What does Russia understand as «joint economic development on the southern Kurils”?
— To begin with, I'd like to note that Russia and Japan have long cooperated in the cross-border region of our countries of the southern Kurils and Hokkaido. This mutually beneficial cooperation concerns a visa-free regime for both our Japanese partners and Russian citizens willing to visit the graves of their closest and dearest. According to the relevant inter-governmental agreement, Japanese fishermen have the right to traditional fishing in the Russian territorial sea near the southern Kuril Islands.
Therefore, we've cooperated mutually beneficially for quite a long time. We have the relevant experience. As for joint economic development, the parties deem it a new stage in their relations relating to the islands. Nowadays, the parties have already discussed fundamental issues such as possible modalities and types of joint economic development. We've agreed that it's possible and expedient to carry out joint projects in fields such as tourism, wind-power engineering, greenhouse vegetable farming, waste management, the farming of marine animal resources. That is, those fields that are, I'm sure, really interesting and necessary both for the residents of the southern Kuril Islands, Russian citizens living on the southern Kuril Islands, and our Japanese partners. We can use the advanced special economic zone regime to implement projects involving Japanese businesses. In general, we're inclined to seek even more ambitious projects, more large-scale projects than those we've been discussing and, of course, will continue to discuss in order to ultimately launch them.
At the same time, we believe that it's necessary to introduce free cross-border movement in the Sakhalin region, including the southern Kurils and Hokkaido. It will only favor communication, improve mutual understanding, and contribute to mutually beneficial economic cooperation on a larger scale.
— Russia has repeatedly expressed concern about the deployment of the US ABM systems on Japanese territory. I mean the AEGIS multi-purpose systems and others. Has the situation changed? And, on the whole, what's the deal with this issue?
— Well, as far as we can judge by our Japanese partners' statements, by the steps taken by the United States of America, plans for the deployment of the Aegis Ashore systems in Japan are in the works. These plans imply the installation of MK 41 Launching Systems in Japan. These systems are known to be capable of launching both ABM interceptor missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles, which are prohibited by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. As far as I know, the plans to deploy these systems in Japan haven't changed, which is, of course, a serious potential challenge for Russian defense in the Far East.
— Meanwhile, the United States is withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. In this context, what's Japan's reaction to it? Judging by official statements, I have a feeling that Japan isn't happy about this decision by the United States, although they don't say it so bluntly.
— The Japanese partners expressed their understanding of the circumstances which allegedly made the USA suspend and, in fact, withdraw from the INF Treaty. Well… There have also been absolutely ungrounded speculations, as far as I can judge. They also alleged that Russia violated the Treaty. Understandably, our Japanese partners stated that at the suggestion of their American allies. Of course, I disagree with this point, to put it mildly. And, of course, I can't but note with regret that such statements, solidarity with such plans by the US don't contribute to creating a new atmosphere in Russian-Japanese relations.
— Despite the fact that the year 2019 has come, the Year of Russia in Japan, launched last year, is underway. And it will last for some months more. What cultural exchange will these coming months bring?
— Of course, traditionally, cultural exchange has been a major, substantial, interesting and pleasant part of Russian-Japanese relations. This year, we've seen the International Theater Olympics begin in Japan and a group of famous Russian theater workers has arrived here. We expect our world-renowned on-stage performance groups and performers to tour all over Japan, including the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra as well as the Eifman Ballet and, probably, Mikhail Pletnev's tour. So, the list of joint cultural projects both in Russia and Japan is quite broad. But I'd like to reiterate that the Bilateral Years program does include cultural events, but is not limited to them. There will be new interesting regional events like the meeting of governors and many others.
— Thank you very much for the interview. Best wishes on the occasion of your professional day!
— Thank you very much, I'm glad to hear that.