September 1, 2007｜Russia
Regional Coordinator & Advisor for the CIS, Regional Strategy & Coordination Department, Mitsubishi Corporation
In October 1997 the “First Meeting of the Japan–Russia Far East Economic Cooperation Workshop” was held in Khabarovsk. Behind this were the smooth implementation of the “Far East and Zabaykalye Long-Term Development Program 1996–2005”, adopted in April 1996, and the concrete identification of Japan–Russia joint projects for realizing Japan–Russia economic cooperation.
From the list of more than 60 projects subsequently proposed by the Russian side, the outcome of repeated work by those involved on the Japanese side was the selection of 13 projects for Japan–Russia cooperation, and of those, 6 projects were rated as of the highest priority.
In November 1997, at the Japan–Russia summit held in Krasnoyarsk between (then) Prime Minister Hashimoto and (then) President Yeltsin, as well as a promise being made to resolve the Northern Territories dispute and conclude a peace treaty by the year 2000, the workshop meeting took place positively and without letup, and the distance between the two rapidly closed.
Despite the efforts by both Japan and Russia, however, no project got as far as a conclusion of a contract. One of the greatest reasons for this was that, while the “Far East and Zabaykalye Long-Term Development Program” had the status of a presidential program, the appropriate support from the federal government, financially and institutionally, didn’t come about.
The “Far East and Zabaykalye Long-Term Development Program 1996–2005” that was adopted in 1996—with its contents partly amended in March 2002—gained the approval of the federal government as the “Far East and Zabaykalye Long-Term Development Program 1996–2005 and 2010”, with the target period extended to 2010. The federal government gave the reasons for the amendments as that the required funding for the program was thought to be unrealistic in scale, and that the mechanisms to bring about its execution were practically nonfunctional.
At the federal government Cabinet meeting of 2 August 2007, the “Far East and Zabaykalye Long-Term Development Program to 2013” received basic approval and the third Far East and Zabaykalye development program was launched.
In the last ten years the objective circumstances surrounding Russia have changed and they are seriously getting down to work on the policies for eastern Russia also. At the Japan–Russia summit at the Heiligendamm summit (7 June), Prime Minister Abe proposed an “Initiative on Strengthening Cooperation between Japan and Russia in the Far East and Zabaykalye” to President Putin, and President Putin evaluated this highly and declared his support for it.
For the future stability of the Northeast Asian region, Russia’s active participation and contribution to the region is required. I hope that the third development program isn’t just an electoral pledge for the State Duma elections at the end of December and the presidential election in March, and I look forward to the success of the “Fifteenth Meeting of the Japan–Russia Far East Economic Cooperation Workshop”, which, after a long absence, is slated for this autumn.