Joint Press Conference by the Leaders of Japan and Russia
12 May 2009
[While the original statements were made in Japanese and Russian, the following is a translation of the Japanese minutes of the press conference. As such, there may be differences between the original Russian phraseology and that appearing in this translation.]
1. Opening Statements
(1) Taro Aso, Prime Minister of Japan
On behalf of the Government of Japan, I sincerely welcome the visit of Prime Minister [Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation, Mr] Vladimir Putin to Japan. I consider this visit by Prime Minister Putin to be an expression of the interest which the Russian leadership entertains in elevating Japan-Russia relations to a higher level in the Asia-Pacific region. I am pleased to have engaged in extremely frank and earnest discussions today.
During our talks, first of all, in accordance with the series of Japan-Russia summit talks held recently, I concurred with Prime Minister Putin as well that:
(i) Japan and Russia would build a relationship as strategically important partners; and
(ii) towards that end, it is important to translate the interests within the Asia-Pacific region held by both Japan and Russia into reality.
Second, in particular through the leadership of Prime Minister Putin, Russia is currently developing the regions of Far Eastern Russia and Eastern Siberia, and has adopted a stance of working towards their integration into the Asia-Pacific region. I conveyed to Prime Minister Putin that Japan is ready to respond to these interests on the Russian side. On that basis, we agreed to advance our mutually beneficial cooperation:
(i) on preparations for the 2012 Vladivostok APEC Summit; and
(ii) in the areas in which the Russian side has interest, including energy, energy conservation and transport.
Third, just now, documents were signed on nuclear energy, mutual legal assistance in criminal matters and mutual assistance in customs matters, among other areas. We also agreed steadily to build up our cooperation in such practical areas, which will certainly be necessary for us as neighbouring countries. Among these, the field of nuclear energy is an important area of cooperation that holds strategic importance for both Japan and Russia. In the future, should the Japan-Russia Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy come into force upon completion of ratification procedures, we can expect cooperation to advance among private sector entities.
As for the issue of the Northern Territories, Prime Minister Putin strove throughout his tenure as President of the Russian Federation to eliminate the impediment of the Northern Territories issue from Japan-Russia relations. Now, with Mr Putin in his capacity as Prime Minister, we have agreed on the following points:
(1) First, the absence of a peace treaty between the two countries continues to be an impediment to progress in Japan-Russia relations across a broad range of fields;
(2) Second, in order to eliminate the impediment of the territorial issue to Japan-Russia relations, it will be necessary to achieve a final solution to the issue of the rightful possession of the four islands;
(3) Third, in order to have this issue resolved by our generation, we will accelerate our work, based on the various agreements and documents achieved so far, to search for methods acceptable to both the Japanese and Russian sides so as to extricate the issue from the present situation.
In addition, Prime Minister Putin stated in this connection that President Dmitry Medvedev is prepared to discuss efforts towards resolution of the territorial issue in depth at the summit talks to be held in July, and also said that within the context of rapidly shifting global power relationships, Russia strongly hopes to clear away the negative legacy of the past at an early time, as does Japan.
I consider this visit to Japan by Prime Minister Putin, following the recent summit in Sakhalin, to have been an important step forward in elevating Japan-Russia relations to a higher level.
(2) Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister [Chairman of the Government] of the Russian Federation
First I should like to express my gratitude to the Government of Japan and to Prime Minister Aso for having extended an invitation to me on this working visit to Japan. I am also appreciative that practical cooperative relations were formed in the areas of our collaborative efforts today. My visit to Japan has been productive and it has taken place in a constructive and friendly atmosphere.
I have just finished my meeting with Prime Minister Aso. We exchanged views on a wide range of issues in the bilateral relationship and held discussions on urgent international issues. I am satisfied that our bilateral relations have been developing dynamically. We are about to achieve almost all of the goals appearing in the Japan-Russia Action Plan adopted in 2003. I was convinced once more today that the Japan-Russia Action Plan is the true "roadmap" for us. Today's meetings provided positive affirmation of the fact that regular political dialogue based on a relationship of trust dramatically promotes the development of Japan-Russia relations.
In addition, I should like to point out the fact that both countries have the same approach regarding trade and economic cooperation. I am pleased that trade and economic cooperation have in recent years been developing at a rapid pace. Our bilateral trade volume has also been hitting new records, having tripled (sic) since the last time I visited Japan in 2005. In addition, cooperation has been advancing in the area of investment, with the number of Japanese companies operating in Russia increasing. Prime Minister Aso and I also discussed joint efforts to surmount the global financial crisis. For this, it will be necessary to act in close cooperation. In addition, we confirmed that our approaches are similar towards the creation of a robust and transparent global financial and economic structure. This crisis also provides a unique chance for new and qualitative improvements to our bilateral trade and investment relations.
We also discussed such issues as innovation, energy, information and communication, nanotechnology, energy conservation, space, cooperation in the field of transport, and the strengthening of energy security in the Asia-Pacific region. The humanitarian, cultural and educational fields, as well as exchanges between regions of Japan and Russia, are likewise important areas for us. Needless to say, we also gave sufficient attention to the issue of the conclusion of a peace treaty. Today's discussions were as a whole constructive and profitable, and in particular they were very meaningful for the development of multi-faceted Japan-Russia relations.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Aso, among the documents you signed today, the Agreement on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy has particularly great impact. In concrete terms, what type of cooperative relations can we expect to result from this? It would seem that a resolution of the territorial issue and conclusion of a peace treaty would be absolutely essential in order to achieve substantive results in a field like this. Please tell us in the concrete what discussions you had during today's talks.
PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: If the Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy is approved by our legislatures and enters into force, we can expect that mutually beneficial cooperation, including on a private-sector basis, will be advanced between Japan, which possesses advanced technology in the construction of nuclear power plants etc, and Russia, which has abundant uranium resources and is among the world's leaders in uranium-enrichment capacity.
As for achievements related to the territorial issue, please refer to what I said just a moment ago. Through the discussions today, we confirmed that Prime Minister Putin also possesses the strong political will to reach a final settlement of this issue. This was of great significance in the lead-up to the summit talks in July.
QUESTION: Today a lot has been said about cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. There was also reference just now to cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region including in the field of energy. With regard to this future direction, what types of cooperation between Japan and Russia are currently moving forward? How is bilateral Japanese-Russian cooperation being evaluated regarding the degree to which it is contributing to the promotion of cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, including energy security in the Asia-Pacific region? In addition, what types of future directions have been laid out in the concrete regarding cooperation on a Pacific pipeline and also regarding the Agreement on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, which was signed today?
PRIME MINISTER VLADIMIR PUTIN: I will answer your question from the last part. I concur with Prime Minister Aso that the Agreement on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy is an important document for cooperation in the field of nuclear energy. In this field, it is impossible to engage in cooperation which is constructive and which yields broad-ranging results without the inter-governmental agreement signed today. The signing (sic) of this Agreement makes it possible to conclude agreements at the level of economic organisations as well as related commercial contracts. This is something that touches upon nuclear fuel cycles, uranium mining, development, enrichment, parts and equipment related to nuclear power generation, and to collaborative activities both bilaterally and in third-country territories. As you are aware, Russia has a development plan for nuclear power. At today's meeting I referred to the construction of thirty-two large-scale nuclear power facilities built in the Soviet era. We are scheduled to construct twenty-eight [more] by 2020, 2021, or 2022. Nuclear power-related technologies are highly developed in Russia and Japan, and both sides are interested in this cooperation, as we seek to raise the potential for bilateral cooperation as well as our countries' own potentials and to develop third-country markets.
We should also like to focus on energy-saving technologies as a future direction of cooperation in other areas of cooperation in the field of energy. This is another subject that was raised today.
Other areas include oil and gas resources. There are many possibilities in this field, and cooperation is already underway. The first shipment of liquid natural gas (LNG) from the Sakhalin II Project has been sent out. Upcoming plans include the Sakhalin III Project. We discussed the fact that the potential in Far East Russia is much higher than our current levels of cooperation. It is possible either to expand the cooperation currently being promoted or to launch a new project. The recoverable reserves in the Sakhalin III Project on the continental shelf in the Sea of Okhotsk are 700 million tons of crude oil and 1.5 trillion cubic litres of natural gas. In the future we will be continuing with the Sakhalin IV, V, VI, and VII Projects. Therefore, there is adequate scope for cooperation.
Beyond this, there is a plan to construct an LNG plant in the Vladivostok region, and Rosneft Oil Company has plans to construct a petroleum refinery in Far East Russia. These are also possible areas for future activity. In addition, while there are unresolved issues concerning the second stage of the Pacific pipeline project, which will extend to the Pacific Ocean, these should be resolved as oil drilling proceeds in Eastern Siberia. It is said that 50 to 80 million tons of petroleum can already be extracted annually, and as a result it will be possible to have petroleum flowing through the pipeline, making it economically feasible. I have discussed this project during consultations with the business community as well as during consultations with Prime Minister Aso.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Putin, there have been discussions on the idea to resolve the territorial issue by "returning 3.5 islands" [to Japan]. What is your view of this idea? On the Japanese side there are concerns that the territorial issue may be left behind, insofar as there is no concrete movement on the territorial issue while economic cooperation only is moving forward. How would you respond to such concerns?
PRIME MINISTER VLADIMIR PUTIN: There are various views to be found in public opinion, and within Russia as well you will find a variety of approaches. I do not intend to take up and analyse all of them here. However, I myself will make my judgement based on public opinion which is disposed towards a resolution of this issue. As for the idea to link our trade and economic relations with the bilateral peace treaty, the first thing I should like to say is that we are not engaged in peace treaty negotiations in order to create conditions that foster economic cooperation and development. Rather, we are developing our economic relations so as to create conditions that are conducive to the conclusion of a peace treaty. Russia is prepared to hold talks on this issue. Prime Minister Aso and President Medvedev have agreed to hold a bilateral meeting at the G8 Summit to be held in Italy this July and to discuss the issue of a peace treaty. I would expect all options shall be discussed for this end at this very meeting, including the option you mentioned in your question.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Aso, in the bilateral relationship, there is a well-known issue that is clearly restraining the development of Japan-Russia trade and economic cooperation. In addition to this issue there is the impact of the global economic crisis. I would like to know your views on what kind of bilateral cooperation is possible to minimise the negative impact of these issues on the bilateral relationship. Prime Minister Putin, I would also like to ask for your comments if you have anything you would like to add.
PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: Japan is prepared to build a relationship with Russia as one between important partners in the Asia-Pacific region. At today's meeting, Prime Minister Putin and I agreed that it is important for us to translate the interests within the Asia-Pacific region held by both Japan and Russia into reality in order to build such a relationship.
Mutually beneficial cooperation between Japan and Russia in the Asia-Pacific region has the potential to contribute greatly to the development of the entire region. As Prime Minister Putin mentioned (sic), over the past five years, the amount of trade between Japan and Russia has increased fivefold. As an achievement symbolic of this development I can cite the launch of LNG production in Sakhalin, whose commemorative ceremony I attended in February.
Furthermore, at today's meeting, we agreed to advance mutually beneficial cooperation, including on preparations for the 2012 Vladivostok APEC Summit, energy, energy conservation, and transport.
If along with progress in this kind of mutually beneficial cooperation we are able to remove the "thorn" of the territorial issue between our countries, then it will be possible to construct a relationship as true partners in this region.
PRIME MINISTER VLADIMIR PUTIN: Over the medium to long term, the fostering of Japan-Russia relations is an important element in the development of inter-regional relations and in [regional] security. Based on this thinking, Russia wishes to develop its relations with its partner Japan. For that one purpose, and for no other purpose, we wish to make our relations "clean" in all their aspects and will aim at "clearing" all political, economic and financial problems that impede the development of our cooperation. Under current global economic conditions it may not be possible to bring projects to fruition in the manner we would hope, but conversely we are obliged to pursue them in more efficient ways. I firmly believe that not only will we deal competently with these conditions but we will also resolve the issues that have been confirmed in the past as well as those that were confirmed during today's meeting.