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Published:October 17th, 2007 12:36 EST
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s Responses to Questions from Japan’s Kyodo Tsushin News Agency

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s Responses to Questions from Japan’s Kyodo Tsushin News Agency

By SOP newswire

1. Question: During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that took place in Heiligendamm within the framework of the Group of Eight summit, the Japanese side came up with the initiative of strengthening economic cooperation with the regions of the Russian Far East and Eastern Siberia. In 2012 Vladivostok is planning to hold an APEC summit.

In this context, what are the potentialities for cooperation between Russia and Japan in the Far East and in Eastern Siberia?

Answer: The importance of the Asia-Pacific Region for Russia stems from its role as the “engine” of the world economy, whose real weight in world affairs is only going to increase. A distinctive feature of the processes occurring here is the swift development of integration, in which Siberia and Russia’s Far East are becoming organically involved, having as they do the necessary resource potential and processing capabilities both for their own social and economic development and for supplying the fast growing raw material requirements of the dynamic APR countries. Neither should one forget about the potential of innovative development accumulated in these Russian regions. In a word, the foreign policy aims and the tasks of our internal development aptly combine together.

We are striving for full-fledged cooperation relations with all the partners in the AP region, including, of course, Japan. This calls for closer Russian-Japanese economic and commercial ties in Siberia and the Far East. President Putin spoke in support of this at his meetings with Prime Minister Abe in Heiligendamm and Sydney.

Serving as a substantial prerequisite for stepping up cooperation was the adoption on August 2, 2007 by the Russian Government of the Federal Target Program for the Development of the Far East and Transbaikalia, designed for the period till 2013, with an aggregate financing amount of 566 billion rubles to develop infrastructure (envisaging the reconstruction of 22 airports, 13 seaports, ferries, roads, and energy facilities). It is proposed to allocate a large part of this sum – about 100 billion – to Vladivostok, which, as you have already noted, will become the venue for an APEC summit in 2012.

It is gratifying that our Japanese partners responded promptly and keenly to the Russian Government’s plans. At the G8 summit in Heiligendamm, the Japanese side put forward the initiative of developing bilateral ties in the region, within whose framework it suggests as priority areas of cooperation the fuel and energy sector, transport, communication services, environmental protection, security, public health, the improvement of the trade-and-investment climate and the promotion of interregional exchanges.

A substantive discussion on this question is expected in the course of the meeting of the Sub-commission on Regional Cooperation of the Intergovernmental Trade and Economic Commission that will be held in Vladivostok on October 26 this year. A representative delegation of the Japanese business circles will take part.

We hope that at this Vladivostok meeting we will be able to start a substantive discourse on cooperation with respect to specific projects.

2. Question: What is the position of the Russian leadership on the creation of a Japanese-American missile defense system?

Answer: We, naturally, are closely following the development of Japanese-American relations in the military-political sphere. Above all, this concerns the American-Japanese accords to expand the “zone of responsibility” of the alliance through imparting to it the functions of ensuring regional and global peace and security. The workability of a global scheme like this evokes our doubts. We believe that such goals can only be achieved in collaboration with other regional structures and leading regional players.

We presume that Japanese-American cooperation within the alliance will not be directed against any third countries, but, on the contrary, will be synchronized with collective efforts to maintain security in the region.

But if Japan with its technological capabilities with support from the United States takes the path of accelerated military development, of building up the striking potential of its armed forces, then this may entail adverse consequences for regional stability. And we, in our turn, cannot but take this into account in our analysis of the situation.

A subject of concern from our side is Japan’s cooperation with the US in the area of missile defense. We are opposed to the construction of missile defense systems aimed at securing military superiority. Deploying this kind of systems may spur an arms race on a regional and a global scale. The foundations of strategic stability are thus undermined, this leading to a growth of unpredictability in this hugely important sphere of maintaining global equilibrium.

In discussing missile defense problems our Japanese colleagues refer to the North Korean missile threat. We are well aware of Tokyo’s concerns on this score. But we think that it is easier and, first and foremost, more effective to seek a solution to the problem on a politico-diplomatic plane. The real progress made in the six-party process on the Korean Peninsula nuclear problem is extra proof of this. There is every reason to count on the success of our joint efforts for a final settlement of the problems on the Korean Peninsula, including the issues of security in Northeast Asia. There will thus be removed the causes which are now being cited as a justification of the need for a missile defense system in this area.

Whereas Japan may have had some grounds for a certain anxiety over the DPRK missile programs, North Korean missiles will certainly be unable to reach US territory in the coming years. So the question arises about the real aim behind this missile defense system. Many experts suggest that such a missile defense system, being an element of the American global missile defense shield, could as well be used against Russian and Chinese strategic arms.

We have also taken notice of the formation of a military-political “triangle” in the APR with the participation of the US, Japan and Australia. It is our belief that stability can only be achieved in the region by acting on the basis of the principles and approaches worked out and supported by all countries of the region and oriented towards a multivector open diplomacy. A closed format for military and political alliances causes questions among the neighboring countries not party to them about what these alliances are actually being created for and against whom. Does one really need in the conditions of the formation in the APR of multilateral formats for cooperation, particularly in the field of security, to search for ways to ensure one's own security on a bloc basis? I think that this is a counterproductive approach which will not be able to increase trust in the region and, most likely, will bring about results that are opposite to the expectations of the participants in such schemes.

3. Question: In his annual address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation in April 2007, President Putin said that selling fish-catch quotas to foreign companies should be ended and that preference be given to Russian enterprises. There are now fears in Japan that this may affect the implementation of the Russian-Japanese intergovernmental fisheries agreement as well as cooperation in the fishing industry between private enterprises and organizations of the two countries. What is the viewpoint of the Russian side on this problem? How should Russia and Japan cooperate in the fight against poaching in the fishing area?

Answer: Cooperation in the fishing area is one of the major elements of the entire spectrum of Russian-Japanese relations. We have a solid legal basis for the further development of this cooperation, embracing various fields of harvesting marine biological resources and interaction in the preservation, reproduction and management of fish stocks. We intend to continue this cooperation with Japan in accordance with the existing intergovernmental agreements.

Over the recent period, we have been working intensively to upgrade our fishing industry, to make it more effective and profitable for the country. We attach primary importance to developing the Russian enterprises that have the capabilities for fish processing within the territory of Russia, including providing them with fishing quotas. But this does not mean that we ignore the interests of our foreign partners who have been fishing in the Russian economic zone and territorial sea on the basis of intergovernmental agreements for many years now.

Hence there is no question of discontinuing cooperation with Japan in the existing framework. At the same time we consider it necessary to streamline this framework and to broaden the horizons for mutually advantageous cooperation in the area of fishing.

Thus, it would be of interest to us, the establishment of modern fish processing enterprises on the basis of Japanese technologies and know-how, access of our fish products to the Japanese market and the joint development with Japanese companies of third country markets.

Of course, in the further implementation of intergovernmental agreements and determination of quotas for foreigners in our waters we will be guided by the condition of stocks of marine biological resources as well as by the size of the compensation being paid. We will also take into consideration the principle of reciprocity and assess the level of fisheries cooperation with the interested countries, compliance by foreign fishermen with fishing rules, the state of interaction in the fight against poaching and smuggling of sea products, and the effectiveness of the measures taken by our partners not to allow poachers and smugglers into their ports.

In our opinion, the Government of Japan treats with understanding our concerns over the now-exacerbated problem of poaching. The first steps have already been taken to establish a system of information exchanges between the concerned departments of our countries. Recently, in Tokyo, pursuant to the accord reached at the summit meeting in Sydney, a frank exchange of views took place at expert level on ways to streamline cooperation between Russia and Japan in this field.

We are also engaged in dialogue with our other Far Eastern neighbors on the problems of poaching and the smuggling of sea products.

We hold that in the creation of an effective system of counteraction against illegal, uncontrolled and unreported fishing there is no need to “reinvent the wheel.” This kind of system already exists in the northeastern Atlantic. It could be taken as a basis, and after adaptation to the realities of the Far Eastern region, employed in our relations with Japan.

Given a proper level of bilateral engagement in the prevention of illegal fishing it will be easier to tackle other problems as well that are of concern to the Japanese side, such as, for example, the supply of live crabs.

The “poaching international” in the Far East, when the crew of a poaching ship consists of nationals of several states, and the ship flies a flag of convenience, is closely associated with transfrontier crime and its financing. So we attach high importance to the talks being held with the Japanese side on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, on cooperation and mutual assistance in customs affairs and on forging interaction in the area of combating the laundering of criminal proceeds.

In our opinion, only a comprehensive approach to all the aspects of Russian-Japanese fisheries cooperation can ensure the observance of mutual interests in this field as well as stable and safe fishing for all honest fishermen.

4. Question: What are the Russian Government’s plans with respect to the commissioning of a second line of the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean Oil Pipeline? How can the prospects be evaluated for participation by Japanese companies in deposit development in Eastern Siberia?

Answer: The construction of the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean Oil Pipeline is an integral part of the general strategy of Russia, aimed at developing the national oil and gas sector, diversifying the energy supply routes, broadening our participation in economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region and directed towards a responsible attitude to ensuring energy security there.

The construction of the first line of the pipeline proceeds according to schedule: more than 1130 kilometers have already been laid. The President has given the instruction for the fuel and energy sector to finance the second stage of the project. In September OAO Rosneft Oil Company approved plans to build two stages of an oil refinery near the port of Kazmino, the projected outlet of the pipeline to the Pacific Coast, with a capacity of 10 million tons a year each, the first of which is planned to be commissioned by 2012, and the second by 2015.

Today, Russia experiences no difficulties attracting financial resources for implementing the project. It is commercial, which presupposes the possibility of mutually advantageous cooperation between business entities. Participation by Japanese companies appears to be most promising in the establishment of export-oriented enterprises of oil and gas chemistry that envisage the production of high value added products with the possibility of their realization both in Japan and in third-country markets.

In conclusion, I wish to tell you that I am looking forward to productive talks with my Japanese counterpart in Tokyo.

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