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Kommersant: Japan Ready to Share Sakhalin-2 with Russia (*surrender)

Oct. 02, 2006

In respect of Russia, the rhetoric of Japan was reconciliatory during the whole past week, signaling Tokyo is paving the way for the first meeting of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

In part that relates to Russia, the speech that the new PM of Japan Shinzo Abe delivered to the parliament past Friday was clearly positive and equally vague, as if he attempted to leave some space for maneuver at the future negotiations with Russia’s president.

According to Shinzo Abe, the development potential of Russia’s-Japanese relations is great but hidden and implies benefits for both countries. The territorial issue is of prime concern, naturally.

Of interest is that today’s territorial elusiveness of the Japanese PM coincided with a raft of unprecedented statements of Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Aso, who even voiced some options in solving the South Kuril’s problems, which had been always the taboo for Tokyo.

Aso’s most radical suggestion was dividing the territory by half with Russia keeping the biggest and most developed Iturup Island and Japan confining to smaller Kunashir, Shikotan and a group of the Habomai Islands.

This suggestion of the minister couldn’t be viewed as official standing of Japan, the foreign ministry of the country said some time later to freeze enthusiasm. Still, the sharing way-out was hardly a slip of the tongue, as Mr Aso called for the compromise in all interviews past week.

The friendly signals of Japan didn’t confine to the territorial problems. When speaking to reporters September 27, Japanese Economy and Industry Minister Akira Amari sounded rather positive about Gazprom’s entering into the Sakhalin-2 project, which today’s participants are British-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell and Japanese Mitsui and Mitsubishi. Some sources say Tokyo is eager to transfer 25 percent to the gas monopoly of Russia, hoping it will change the tune of the talks about detrimental effect on the Sakhalin’s nature.

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