Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Hiroshi Kimura

【#423】Hopes on Japan-Russia 2+2 Meeting

Hiroshi Kimura / 2017.02.28 (Tue)

February 27, 2017

     A Japan-Russia 2+2 meeting will take place in Tokyo on March 20. What is the 2+2 meeting? It means a regular consultative framework to discuss bilateral cooperation and common strategies on foreign policy and security issues. As the foreign and defense ministers each from Japan and Russia attend the meeting, it is called “2+2.”
     When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Moscow in late April 2013, the two countries agreed to create the 2+2 framework. The agreement represented a Japanese concession to Russia as Japan earlier had such consultative frameworks only with countries having friendly, close relations with Japan. By then, in fact, Japan had such frameworks only with the United States and Australia. Abe’s decision to kick off the security consultative framework with Russia can be regarded as bold because Japan is still technically in war with Russia in the absence of a bilateral peace treaty.

Suspension due to Russia’s Crimea annexation
     There may be two reasons for Prime Minister Abe to have the 2+2 framework with Russia. One is to counter Chinese threats. The other is to pave the way for resolving a bilateral territorial dispute to conclude a peace treaty.
     Since the first 2+2 meeting in November 2013, however, the framework has been suspended. This is because Russia took advantage of its military power to annex Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in March 2014 in grave violation of international law. The Group of Seven Western industrial countries including Japan imposed sanctions on Russia in a bid to lead it to rescind the reckless behavior.
     During the suspension, however, Russia has steadily pursued military buildup on the disputed Northern Territories, as indicated by the deployment in November 2016 of new ground-to-ship missiles on Etorofu and Kunashiri among the four Northern Territories islands. Earlier this month, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu even announced a plan to deploy a division on the Kuril Islands (including the Northern Territories).

Japan should criticize Russian military buildup
     I had doubted the advisability of creating the Japan-Russia 2+2 framework. I was disappointed at Japan’s failure to complain about 3,500 Russian troops stationed on the Northern Territories. At present, I am concerned that Japan will effectively run counter to the G-7 sanctions on Russia by holding the second Japan-Russia 2+2 meeting.
     If Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Tomomi Inada were to eliminate my doubts or concern, they should strictly criticize Russia for its military buildup on the Northern Territories and win the Putin administration’s effective pledge to redress the trend.

Hiroshi Kimura is Professor Emeritus at Hokkaido University.