The Fourth Portsmouth Peace Treaty Forum

Mr. Akira Muto
The Relationship Between Bilateral Negotiation and International Environment in the Context of the Territorial Negotiations Between Japan and Russia

It's my great honor to be here to address the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Forum. Yesterday my colleague from our Consul General in Boston kindly took me to see the Wentworth Hotel where Japan and Russian delegation stayed during the negotiations 95 years ago. It's always something very special to be at the historical site because the atmosphere of the city inspires our imagination.

Our Russian friends, they sounded very pessimistic to me. And I try to be optimistic on my part in giving this address. In any case, today we are not going to get into negotiations. I would like to examine how the international environment could affect the bilateral negotiations by taking a closer look at Japan, Russia/Soviet Union territorial negotiations after World War II and try to review what has happened so far and focus on where we are at right now. My emphasis would be more on the strategic interests of both countries under the new world environment after the Cold War era.

Territorial negotiations between Japan and Russia/ Soviet Union have made progress in three separate periods. 1956 (the first period), 1973 (the second period), and 1991 and thereafter (the third period). Looking at the international circumstances surrounding each period, we can say the following.

The first period (1956) occurred when the balance of power was in the process of being fixed under the Cold War structure.

The second period (1973) occurred while the U.S., Soviet Union and China played a strategic game in Asia.

And the third period (1991 and thereafter) has occurred when a new international order is being explored with the end of the Cold War.

I would now like to examine how Japan, Russia/ Soviet Union bilateral negotiations were constrained or affected by the international environment of each period.

The first period: 1956. The 1956 Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration states that the Soviet Union would hand over two islands, Habomai and Ikotan after the conclusion of a peace treaty. However, negotiations over two other islands, Kunashiri and Etorofu, did not come to a conclusion. Therefore, Japan and the Soviet Union agreed to continue the peace treaty negotiations, including talks on territorial issues, after restoring the diplomatic relations.

In the early 1950's, it became increasingly clear that U.S.-Soviet rivalry would last for a long time. In Europe, the Berlin blockade by Khrushchev had reached a deadlock. In Asia, stalemate in the Korean War dimmed the prospect for the Soviets to place South Korea under its control.

With such developments, the Soviet Union came to realize the relevance of having a dialogue with the United States. Moreover, with western European and the United States progressing towards post-war reconstruction under the Marshal Plan and vigilance against the Soviet Union emerging in the Far East (with the exception of China and North Korea), the Soviet Union shifted its policy vis-a-vis West Germany and Japan as a part of its strategy to enhance its presence in Europe as well as in the Far East. This led to the establishment of diplomatic relations between Soviet Union and West Germany in 1955. The Soviet Union also initiated a move toward normalization of its relations with Japan, and both sides agreed to restore their diplomatic relations with the 1956 Joint Declaration.

When one looks at international environment during this time, there was an emerging hope toward détente after the Geneve Summit of 1955. But, in reality, the sphere of inference between the East and West was beginning to be fixed with neither the U.S. nor the Soviets having the decisive advantage, and political negotiations started to stall.

At the 20th Party Congress in 1956, during which Khrushchev criticized Stalin, Khrushchev also declared, "Our socialist comrades in the world are increasing their influence over world affairs. The status of imperialists is continuously declining." After this 20th Party Congress, coupled with East-West stalemate, the Soviets attempted to challenge the Western sphere of influence by resorting to provocative actions such as the Suez crisis in 1956, the Hungary crisis in 1956, the Berlin crisis in 1959, and the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. Indeed, it was in mid 1950's that the spheres of influence for the East and West were respectively fixed.

When the Soviet Union established diplomatic relations with West Germany in 1955, it also acknowledged East Germany's decision making rights in domestic and foreign policy. In other words, the Soviet Union left the resolution of German issues up to negotiations between East and West Germany. By doing so, the Soviet Union attempted to maintain the status quo in Germany and to make the East-West split permanent, rather than trying to solve the problem.

Similarly the Soviets seemed to attempt to restore diplomatic relations with Japan without changing the status quo from the Soviets' perspective. The Soviets insisted the handover of the two islands of Habomai and Shikotan take place after the conclusion of a peace treaty even though it agreed to the handover itself in the 1956 Joint Declaration.

It is said that the Soviet Union first began its preparation for restoring diplomatic relations with Japan at the aforementioned 20th Party Congress. It seems that at the time, the Soviet's highest priority in its negotiation with Japan was to end the status of war and to restore diplomatic relations. The Soviets probably had the view that once these basic problems were resolved, solution to other problems would gradually follow based on the principles of equality and reciprocity. Such an approach can be considered as an attempt to neutralize Japan by solidifying the status quo.

Now, the second period: 1973. In 1973 at the conclusion of the Tanaka-Brezhnev summit talks, the two countries reaffirmed that the Northern Territories issues were the unresolved issues which needed to be resolved by concluding a peace treaty. Japan did gain an agreement on continuing territorial negotiations with the Soviet Union which had insisted since 1960 that the territorial issues had been solved.

The first half of 1970's was the era of détente. In Europe, there were developments towards improving relations with the Soviet Union: West Germany under Brandt's policy confirmed Order Neisse Line established by Stalin by concluding the Friendship Treaties with Poland and Soviet Union, and also recognized East Germany. These measures were taken for the purpose of coaxing the Soviet Union into a more compromising response with the hope that it would ease the situation at a time when everything had stalled under the constraints of the Cold War.

During this period, foreign policies of the West were gradually shifting from full scale confrontation against communism to focus on national interests and balance of power. While these policies certainly created some maneuverability, they were nonetheless limited due to the basic constraints of the Cold War.

In the Far East, the Sino-Soviet relations deteriorated and the hostility between the two countries became apparent with the armed conflict in 1969. Given these circumstances, the United States and China ended their 20-year long animosity with each other. Some events that led to the thaw between the U.S. and China included Kissinger's visit to China in 1971, U.S. acceptance of the reestablishment of Chinese membership in the United Nations in 1971, and President Nixon's meeting with Mao Tse-tung in Bejing in 1972.

Thereafter, China considered the Soviet Union a greater threat to China than the United States. This added a new element to the situation in the Far East in the early 1970s which had been based on the Cold War structure of U.S.- Soviet rivalry. It had now become a power game among the United States, Soviet Union and China.

Given these circumstances, a progressive attempt was made by Japan to normalize Japan-Sino relations, such as Prime Minister Tanaka's visit to China and the announcement of the Shanghai Joint Declaration in 1972, which was considered as a threat by the Soviet Union. Thereafter, the Soviets' basic policy towards Japan was to hinder rapprochement between Japan and China as much as possible.

It was under these circumstances that the 1973 Tanaka-Brezhnev talk took place. It would be fair to assume that the Soviet Union's strategic goal at that time was to draw Japan as close as possible to the Soviets in order to sever Sino-Japan ties in the overall context of power politics among the U.S., the Soviet Union and China.

Although the Soviets attempted to draw Japan's attention by offering to continue negotiations on territorial issues, it was not yet ready in those days to embark on serious efforts to resolve the issue with Japan which was considered an ally of the United States. In fact, since the mid- 1970s, the Soviet Union has become more confrontational against U.S. and China's political military pressures. Its continuous military expansion resulted in aggression into Afghanistan. Basically no substantial achievements were made in Japan-Soviet territorial negotiation from 1973 until the beginning of the 1990s.

Now the third period: 1991 to the present. With the end of the Cold War, Japan-Russian relations also went through significant changes. At the Japan-Soviet summit which took place during President Gorbachev's visit to Japan in 1991, for the first time the two countries confirmed in writing that the issues involving the four Northern Islands were the territorial issues which needed to be resolved in a peace treaty.

Moreover, the Tokyo Declaration adopted in 1993 when President Yeltsin visited Japan defined "the territorial issues" as the sovereignty issues over the four islands and named all the four islands involved. It also presented clear guidelines for negotiation by stating that, backed by historical and legal facts, the issues were to be solved based on the documents agreed upon between the two countries and the principles of law and justice. This firmly established a new basis for negotiations with the then newly constituted Russia, in resolving the territorial issues.

Furthermore, at Krashoyarsk Summit in 1997, both countries reached an oral agreement that based upon the '93 Tokyo Declaration, they would make the utmost efforts to conclude a peace treaty by the end of the year 2000. The gist of this oral agreement was put into writing in the '98 Moscow Declaration.

Released from the constraints of the Cold War, Europe witnessed the unification of Germany, departure of Eastern European countries from the Soviet's sphere of influence, adoption of the NATO-Russia Founding Act, and the membership of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland into NATO. Asia also saw considerable transformation, although with China and North Korea still maintaining communist regimes, changes are not as dramatic as the ones occurring in Europe.

First, with the independence of the former Soviet Union states, Russia no longer has a common border with Europe and therefore is drawing closer to Asia in relative geographic terms.

Secondly, at the end of the Soviet era, there was already a shift in Soviet policy from one of emphasizing the East-West relations in Europe to a policy of having a greater interest in Asia including the promotion of Asian demilitarization and enhancement of economic relations, due to the dynamism of the Asian economic development in the 1970s and 1980s.

This trend has been further enhanced after Russia came into being. Russian policy priorities toward the Asia-Pacific region since '95 have included establishment of friendly partnerships with all the countries in the region, Russian participation in all the developments emerging from this region; and promotion of rapid economic development in the Russian Far East. Russia joined APEC in 1998 and now has a potential to be accepted into Asian society as a Eurasian state for the first time since the Cold War era.

Third, as NATO expands eastward, Russia has embarked on multi-directional diplomacy by strengthening its relations with China, India, Japan and Middle East countries since 1995. In that context, Asia naturally became strategically more important to Russia.

Fourth, this is most different characteristic from the Cold War period, the Sino-Russia relation being normalized, the tripolar system among the U.S., Soviet Union and China was freed from zero - sum characteristics. It has become possible for the United States, China and Russia to enjoy plus - sum developments without mutual manipulation and contradiction. The fact that China and Russia claim that their relationship is a "strategic partnership" after Yeltsin's visit to China in 1996 does not mean the receding of U.S.-Russia or U.S.-China relations. Russia does not regard President Clinton's visit to China as a threat.

In the same regard, U.S.-Japan security relations are no longer a threat for Russia. Rather, the security relationship has been recognized as a stabilizing factor in Asia.

What these changes in international environment mean for Japan-Russia negotiation is that the two countries now have a basis on which they can negotiate strictly for the benefits of the Japan- Russia relationship without the Cold War constraints for the first time since World War II. Under in such circumstances, the Japan-Russia relations in the post-Cold War international order should play an important role.

Of course relations between countries are also affected by each country's domestic interests. But even considering the current domestic difficulties facing Russia, the parties need to see the long-term benefits of reaching a settlement.

Considering the aforementioned factors such as the important role the United States played in ending the Cold War, the historical relationship of Japan and Russia, combined with strategic and geopolitical interests of each country, one can predict that the Japan-Russian territorial negotiations are now naturally progressing toward the best settlement opportunity since the end of World War II. Thank you very much for your attention.

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