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Russian-Japanese relations develop despite unfavorable international background

February 24, 18:26 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© Yuri Smityuk/ITAR-TASS

MOSCOW, February 24. /TASS/. The fairly unfavorable international background is not an impediment to further development of the Russian-Japanese relations. This can be evidenced by Russia’s intention to offer Japanese companies controlling stakes in large Russian oil and gas extraction projects and the plans of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to pay a visit to Moscow, despite Washington’s recommendations to the contrary.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said in an interview with Japanese newspaper Nikkei on Friday that Russia was willing to let Japanese investors take majority stakes in large-scale oil and natural gas projects.

Despite the sanctions, Russia has had "very constructive exchanges with Japanese companies," which creates "a good environment for political dialog," he said.

Moscow earlier considered such enterprises as strategically important and denied foreign investors majority stakes in them.

Dvorkovich also spoke about a possible trip by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Japan, saying this would require a "considerable package of agreements" on economic cooperation.

Putin was expected to visit Japan in the autumn of 2014 but the Japanese postponed the visit in the summer of that year, without even concealing that they were doing this under the US pressure.

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to visit Russia, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said amid media reports that the United States had asked him to give up the visit.

"There are no changes in our policy towards Russia," he said. According to him, "we have agreed that before the visit [by the Russian president] to Japan, Prime Minister Abe makes an unofficial visit to Russia within the due time limits."

During a telephone talk with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on February 9, US President Barack Obama asked him to refrain from a trip to Russia.

As the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported, Obama told Abe this was not an appropriate time for the visit.

Russian experts note that Moscow’s proposals to Japanese companies look unusual but they are not sure that this will quickly lead to specific results.

"This is an unusual move from our side," Head of the Center of Japanese Studies at the Institute of the Far East of the Russian Academy of Sciences Valery Kistanov told TASS.

"The Japanese will most likely refuse to accept this because Americans will pressurize very strongly. The only thing that may incentivize the Japanese is that they will compete with China in this sphere. But in principle we’ll hardly see a strong inflow of Japanese capital," the expert said.

"The proposal is very interesting but you need to take into account the Japanese’s already genetic fear that they may have something taken away from them or at least their participation will be reformatted, as was the case with the Sakhalin project," Senior Lecturer at the School of Eastern Studies of the Higher School of Economics Andrei Fesyun told TASS.

"That is why, it would surely be a big exaggeration to say that the Japanese would rush for this proposal. But certainly there is interest in it and, considering Shinzo Abe’s quite positive attitude to Russia, he can be expected to take some efforts and exert pressure on representatives of Japanese business so that they can at least study this proposal," the expert said.

"On Russia’s part, this is quite a radical step and this is a certain signal for Japanese business," Head of the Chair of Eastern Studies at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) Dmitry Streltsov told TASS.

"This will have some effect but it is hard to say which effect because there are too many negative factors that affect the Russian-Japanese relations, including the Japanese business’ cautious position on investments in Russia," the expert said.

As for the visit by the Japanese premier to Moscow, analysts say that this trip will take place despite all of Washington’s pressure because Shinzo Abe is determined to continue talks on the disputed Kuril Islands.

"Abe does not lose the hope to solve the territorial problem positively and counts on contacts with Putin," Kistanov said.

"This is why, he is ready to come, despite numerous calls from Washington," the expert said.

Indeed, such "requests" from the US leadership have been heard more than once but the Japanese leadership has also politely refused more than once to heed these calls, Fesyun said.

In the expert’s opinion, Abe’s visit to Russia in early May will most likely take place, if there are no force majeure circumstances.

"This visit will have no specific results, except for the general strengthening of the positive atmosphere in bilateral relations. Nevertheless, the very fact of this visit will suggest that the incumbent Japanese leadership treats relations with Russia with quite big attention," the expert said.

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