Thursday, June 7, 2007

Stirrings in Heiligendamm

Prime Minister Abe and President Putin met on Thursday evening (Friday morning, Japan time) as planned and discussed what seems like every outstanding issue in Russo-Japanese relations: fishing rights, the Northern Territories, the development of Siberia's energy resources, and a Russo-Japanese peace treaty.

Few conclusions, however, were reached, and it seems that there will be no direct exchange of visits after all, with the next face-to-face being at the APEC meeting in Australia in September.

But, while the outcome of the meeting seems to be more modest than I expected, I still think there's reason to think that the months leading up to the next summit will be spent with both countries exploring options for a grand bargain on outstanding bilateral issues, not least the Northern Territories question.

Again, I think the strategic logic is unimpeachable; both, relatively friendless in the region, need more options. But the road to an agreement will be arduous, and based on the coverage of the Abe-Putin summit, it seems that Japan and Russia are starting from scratch.

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