Abe’s underperforming Russia policy faces growing political backlash

Author: James D.J. Brown, Temple University Japan

The June 2018 encounter between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was not the only momentous summit to take place in Singapore last year. The city-state also hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in November at which they agreed to accelerate peace treaty talks based on the countries’ joint declaration of 1956.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe make a joint statement following their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 22 January 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Alexei Druzhinin).

This agreement represents a significant concession by Japan. The 1956 joint declaration mentions only Shikotan and Habomai, the smaller two of the four islands whose disputed status has prevented Tokyo and Moscow from sealing a peace treaty since 1945. Putin has long accepted the validity of the 1956 joint declaration. But until now, Japanese governments have considered the promise of two islands insufficient, especially since they account for only 7 per cent of the disputed landmass.

After Abe’s unilateral concession in Singapore, the leaders met again in December to agree that foreign ministers Taro Kono and Sergei Lavrov would have responsibility for the accelerated talks and would meet early in the new year. Abe began 2019 in a positive mood and …continue reading