Will Putin use Ja­pan visit to divide G-7 over the treat­ment of Ukraine?

The China Post - - COMMENTARY - BY KENICHI OGATA

A pro­posed visit by Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin to Ja­pan likely un­der­scores Moscow’s at­tempt to divide the Group of Seven na­tions over Ukraine, ac­cord­ing to ob­servers.

Putin’s pro­posed visit would also mark his coun­try’s ini­tial step to rec­tify its rapidly grow­ing re­liance on China in var­i­ous fields.

Rus­sia has treated Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s visit to Ukraine with equa­nim­ity. As the sit­u­a­tion now stands, Putin’s visit to Ja­pan would not be ideal de­spite a con­sen­sus reached be­tween the Ja­panese and Rus­sian gov­ern­ments to do so “at an ap­pro­pri­ate time” this year.

At a press con­fer­ence Thurs­day, Krem­lin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked how Abe’s visit to Ukraine would af­fect the Ja­pan-Rus­sia re­la­tion­ship. “It’s not ap­pro­pri­ate to com­ment on re­la­tions be­tween other na­tions (Ja­pan and Ukraine),” he said.

Rus­sia will wel­come Abe’s move to un­veil eco­nomic as­sis­tance to Ukraine, a Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry of­fi­cial told The Yomi­uri Shimbun. “But Rus­sia will likely be an­tag­o­nized by Ja­pan if (Abe) keeps in step with a crit­i­cal po­si­tion taken to­ward Rus­sia at sum­mit talks with Ukraine and the (up­com­ing) G-7 sum­mit meet­ing.”

Abe didn’t at­tend a Rus­sian cer­e­mony held in Moscow in May to mark the 70th an­niver­sary of the for­mer Soviet Union’s victory over Ger­many dur­ing World War II. Dur­ing a visit to the United States in late April, Abe em­pha­sized close re­la­tions be­tween Ja­pan and the United States.

Rus­sia “has taken note” of Abe’s re­marks, the Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry of­fi­cial said.

Putin has em­pha­sized ef­forts to achieve eco­nomic re­sults dur­ing vis­its to other coun­tries. But var­i­ous projects han­dled by Ja­panese cor­po­ra­tions in Rus­sia’s Far East have re­mained frozen, in­clud­ing liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties and pipe­line con­struc­tion plans. This comes on the heels of eco­nomic sanc­tions im­posed by Ja­pan, the United States and the Euro­pean Union over the un­fold­ing Ukraine cri­sis.

For­eign Min­is­ter Fu­mio Kishida plans to visit Moscow ahead of the Rus­sian pres­i­dent’s visit to Ja­pan. Yet lit­tle progress has been made to ar­range Kishida’s sched­ule, partly be­cause of un­cer­tain­ties as to when sanc­tions against Rus­sia would be lifted, ac­cord­ing to Ja­panese diplo­matic sources.

Ja­pan’s cur­rent stance on Rus­sia contrasts those of Ger­many, France and Italy, re­flected by the fact that the for­eign min­is­ters of th­ese G-7 na­tions have al­ready vis­ited Rus­sia. Putin is sched­uled to visit Italy on Wed­nes­day in a sign of grad­u­ally in­creas­ing mo­men­tum for dia­logue be­tween Rus­sia and Euro­pean coun­tries.

In early June, fresh ten­sions have been brew­ing in Ukraine due to cross­fire be­tween gov­ern­ment troops and pro-Rus­sia armed groups in the eastern part of the coun­try. All in all, the on­go­ing cri­sis there will con­tinue to af­fect re­la­tions be­tween Ja­pan and Rus­sia. This is an ed­i­to­rial pub­lished by The Yomi­uri Shimbun on June 8.

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