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Putin believes security cooperation to build trust between Russia and Japan

December 13, 2016, 11:41 UTC+3 TOKYO

The Russian president says the leaders of the two countries will be conducting negotiations proceeding from the national interests

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© Mikhail Metzel/TASS

TOKYO, December 13. /TASS/. Cooperation in the field of security will help build trust between Russia and Japan, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview to Japan’s NTV channel, published on Tuesday.

"We can and should talk about joint efforts toward ensuring international security, and not only in the Far East. Are we not concerned, for example, by the growing danger related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missile technology? If we act together along these lines, we will create conditions, the conditions for trust that Mr. Abe speaks about," Putin said.

Russia has to understand the degree of independence of Japan’s policy to build the foundation of further relations, he said.

Putin recalled that Japan imposed economic sanctions against Russia. "Why? Due to the events in Ukraine or in Syria? However, Japan and Russian-Japanese relations are hardly related to the events in Syria or in Ukraine. Therefore, Japan has some alliance obligations," he explained.

"We treat them with respect, but we need to understand the degree of Japan’s freedom and what steps it is ready to take. We should look into this, as these are not minor issues," he said.

"Our foundation for signing a peace agreement will depend on them," the president stressed.

Moscow is interested in resolving all the problems in its relations with Japan but fixing some deadline would be unprofessional, Putin went on.

"Of course, we are working toward this. We are discussing this sincerely because we are interested in resolving all the problems of the past in our relations with Japan," Putin noted. "Nothing should prevent us from moving forward. This is one of our national priorities," he stressed.

"This is what we want, and it is in our interest. That said, I believe that fixing some deadline that is limited by my term in office or the Prime Minister’s would be unprofessional because we should talk not about our terms in power but about the quality of potential agreements," the Russian president added.

"Needless to say, each of us would like to achieve major results in our work. If we achieve success," Putin said. "I know his (Japanese Prime Minister’s) position: he wants to complete this process during his term in office, and I would also like to achieve some meaningful, significant results and not only in relations with Japan but also in other areas, such as domestic policy, the economy, and international affairs. Naturally, I will be working toward this," Putin stated.

"But I still do not know if I will succeed," he added.

Putin noted that "unfortunately, we have many unresolved problems." "But a great number of people in Russia know Japan and love Japan, and I am sure that eventually we will resolve all our problems. Irrespective of when this may happen, it would not be an exaggeration to say that today millions of people living in Russia and, I am sure, millions of people living in Japan have an urge to get to know each other, cooperate and exchange useful information, as well as a sincere desire that all problems that still remain unresolved be resolved," the Russian leader added.

When asked if there was someone among the Japanese who he truly respected and who had had a real influence on him, Putin named Jigoro Kano, founder of Judo. He added: "I have several portraits of Jigoro Kano and a bust too, a very beautiful one. Unfortunately, I do not have it here, or I would have shown it to you. I keep it at home, in my residence, where I live permanently. It's a very good, high-quality work by a Russian sculptor, depicting not just a strong-willed but also thoughtful and kind man." He agreed that judo was a philosophy as well, saying that "it can be seen by judo and by those who love it."

The famous Russian saying that says "slow and steady wins the race" does not mean that Moscow is willing to sabotage its relations with Tokyo, Putin added.

When the Japanese reporters asked what the proverb meant, Putin said that "it urges one not to rush in making important decisions. Acting carefully and slowly, it is possible to achieve a better result. This proverb does not call for sabotaging a goal, it does not call for pretending instead of taking real steps to reach a goal. No, this is a call for high-quality work without rushing about hastily."

Putin also noted that he sought this kind of cooperation with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe whom he considered to be "a consummate professional." "He clearly loves his country very much, is motivated to defend its interests and is very pragmatic in how he goes about it. In my view, he is a very reliable, honorable partner with whom it is possible to agree on highly serious, specific issues," Putin added.

"As such, I intend to develop relations with the Prime Minister into the future, including with respect to the most urgent and important issues of our cooperation," the Russian leader concluded.

Peace treaty

The conditions for preparing a peace treaty between Russia and Japan may be achieved by large-scale economic activities that will also cover the Kuril Islands.

"Our agreements on creating the conditions for preparing a peace treaty should be rooted in this trust. This may be achieved, for example, by large-scale economic activities that will also cover the Kuril Islands," Putin noted.

While speaking with the Japanese reporters, the Russian leader said: "you have just shown a brilliant example of this (Japan’s) approach to the discussion by raising the point that economic activity can develop on the islands that would be under Japan’s sovereignty." "However, if this occurs from the outset, no second step is needed and the issue can be considered closed. That was not the agreement," Putin added.

"Of course, we will work to achieve this result," the Russian leader said, when asked if the forthcoming talks might produce more clarity regarding the conclusion of a peace treaty.

"There is progress in the sense that the Prime Minister (Shinzo Abe) has proposed, outlined, as it were, directions for movement toward a peace treaty and the resolution of issues related to territorial problems. Now, what did he propose? He proposed promoting an environment of trust and cooperation." Putin said.

"I believe it is even hard to imagine that it can be any different, that we can agree to sign the documents that we are talking about without trusting each other or without cooperation. That is simply impossible even to imagine," the Russian leader noted. "Therefore, we agree with this and in this respect, certainly, there is progress," Putin concluded.

Putin said he liked Japan and the Japanese culture and sports, such as judo, very much, but still more he loved Russia. The leaders of Russia and Japan will be conducting negotiations proceeding from the national interests of their countries he explained.

"We should find a compromise," he said.

"We need to assess everything and understand what we can agree on and what the implications will be both for Japan and for Russia so that both the Russian people and the Japanese people come to the conclusion that these compromise solutions are acceptable and are in our countries’ interests," Putin concluded. He recalled that the Soviet-Japanese declaration of 1956 mentioned the possibility of the handover to Japan of two South Kuril islands, and not four, which was "a quite a different situation and quite a different approach."

Putin recalled that the talks based on the 1956 document were in fact terminated at Japan’s initiative only to resume at Tokyo’s request in 2000.

"We believe we have no territorial problems at all. It is only Japan that believes it has territorial problems with Russia. We are ready to talk about this," the Russian leader said.

"As regards the southern Kuril Islands, there are different possible options. We are ready to consider joint efforts on one, two, three, or four islands," Putin said. "The terms are important, but they have to be as liberal as possible."

Asked about the framework of such joint economic cooperation and whether it would be organized on the islands as on the Russian, Japanese or some sort of a joint zone, Putin said "You have just shown a brilliant example of this approach to the discussion by raising the point that economic activity can develop on the islands that would be under Japan’s sovereignty."

"However, if this occurs from the outset, no second step is needed and the issue can be considered closed. That was not the agreement," the Russian president said.

"We agreed to solve political issues first, fundamentally, and then the issues related to signing a peace treaty, or all of this together - but only if we are aware that we will not be able to solve the signing of a peace treaty and territorial disputes solely by drafting plans for our possible future cooperation," Putin stated.

"That is why this is a matter for detailed, reasonable and substantive professional talks," he added.

Energy cooperation 

Russia and Japan have great perspectives for cooperation in the energy, agriculture and other spheres, Putin said.

"We have many interesting avenues in the energy industry," the Russian president said ahead of his official visit to Japan this week. "Nine percent of the natural gas and oil consumed by Japan comes from Russia.’

"Another prospect for development comes from the Sakhalin-I and Sakhalin-II oil and gas projects, which are up and running, with some 75% of the products delivered to Japan under long-term contracts," he said. "There are plans for constructing the third plant."

"The work is underway to implement plans to involve Japanese partners in projects on the Yamal Peninsula in Russia’s north," Putin stated. "We have plenty to work on that is promising and large-scale."

The Russian president also said he believed it was high time to start broadly expanding trade and economic ties between Russia and Japan.

"In the past two years, sadly, Russian-Japanese trade has declined significantly, and we should make every effort to restore the previous level (at least restore) and increase it and move on up," he said.

"As I said, we are natural partners, because, truth be told, we are interested in Japan’s involvement in developing Russia’s Far East in general and in receiving technologies, for instance."

"And there are positive examples - for instance, in the automobile industry and other spheres, such as agriculture, where the Japanese are eager to work," Putin added.

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