A DPJ Policy Research Committee Delegation, headed by Policy Research Committee Chair Seiji Maehara (accompanied by Deputy Chair Wakio Mitsui, Vice Chairs Kaname Tajima, Tsutomu Okubo, and Junya Ogawa) made a visit to Russia from April 29. On May 2 and May 3 the delegation engaged in a vigorous round of meetings with senior officials from various sectors of Russian society.
The breakfast meeting on May 2 with Japanese companies that are doing business in Russia was attended by representatives of five companies: Sojitz Corporation, Komatsu Ltd., Japan Airlines Co., Ltd., The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ (Eurasia), Ltd., and ITOCHU Corporation. The meeting discussed and exchanged opinions on the strengths of Japanese companies for advancing their economic activities in Russia and also the constraining factors that exist. The participants noted that while there are still hurdles to overcome, there are great advantages for Japan in doing business in Russia, given the high regard and interest Russian people have in Japanese companies and Japanese technology.
On the same day the delegation engaged in a series of meetings and discussions with experts on Japan and the Asian region and with experts on Russian internal affairs and diplomatic issues. Active discussions on a wide range of topics took place, including on the Russian view of the Northern Territories issue, the outlook for the administration of newly elected President Putin, methods and means of economic cooperation and trade relations, and Japan-Russia relations from a geopolitical perspective.
The delegation also held a meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church. In Japan, the Holy Resurrection Cathedral of the Orthodox Church in Kanda Surugadai is affectionately known as Nikorai-do, after St. Nicholas of Japan, who lived to the end of his days in Japan, even during the Russo-Japanese War. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the death of St. Nicholas, which underscores the long history of links between Japan and the Orthodox Church. The delegation exchanged opinions with Metropolitan Hilarion about these historical aspects and about nurturing trust between Japan and Russia through religion.
Maehara also had talks with Chief of the Government Staff Anton Vaino and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov. These meetings were held in a private setting, out of a mutual desire by both parties to engage in discussions in a relaxed environment. Speaking with reporters following the meeting, Maehara noted that in both meetings it had been agreed to further activate exchange and interaction among parliamentarians and political parties in Japan and Russia, work to further raise the level of bilateral economic cooperation and trade, and seek to develop trust and cooperation by resolving the Northern Territories issue and concluding a peace treaty.
On May 3, the delegation met with Alexander Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Management Committee of Gazprom. Gazprom is a partially privatized company in which the Russian government holds a controlling stake and is the world’s largest producer and supplier of natural gas. Given the fact that since the Great East Japan Earthquake last year the supply of natural gas from Russia to Japan has been increasing, in the meeting discussions took place on various issues, including ways of expanding energy cooperation further as a means of contributing to a stable energy supply in Japan.
A meeting was also held with State Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin. In the meeting Naryshkin expressed his expectation that Japan-Russia relations would develop under the administration of newly elected President Putin and noted that for difficult issues such as the Northern Territories to be resolved it is important to develop exchange and interaction at both the parliamentary and public levels. The meeting was one in which both sides shared their various recognitions on a number of issues.
Following the conclusion of the series of meetings the delegation held a press conference. Maehara explained that one of the objectives of the visit to Russia had been to “level the ground” as a means of strengthening Japan-Russia relations following the inauguration of the new administration of President Putin. Maehara stated that the visit had achieved a number of its objectives, noting that both sides had affirmed the importance of advancing person-to-person interaction at the party and parliamentarian level. He also cited the importance of further developing friendly relations by resolving the Northern Territories issue and concluding a peace treaty, which remain major contributing factors to the subdued level of bilateral economic ties and trade volume, particularly in view of the economic power of both Japan and Russia.
In addition, DPJ Policy Research Committee Deputy Chair Mitsui noted that in the meeting with the Deputy Chairman of the Management Committee of Gazprom the topic of a pipeline linking Hokkaido with Sakhalin had been discussed. Mitsui stated that if this initiative were to become a reality it would not be an issue merely for Hokkaido alone, and an initiative on which discussions would start based on the outcomes of the day’s meeting with Gazprom.