Beyond the Kuriles: New Trends in Russo-Japanese Relations


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When: Mar 7 2014 - 10:30am until Mar 7 2014 - 12:00pm
Where: 1819 L St, NW, Washington, DC. Sixth Floor Conference Room

Beyond the Kuriles: New Trends in Russo-Japanese Relations

An Asia Pacific Security Seminar featuring:

Dr. Stephen Blank
Senior Fellow, American Foreign Policy Council

Mr. Hirohisa Mori (Discussant)
Visiting Research Fellow, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University

Dr. Stephen Blank (left) explained how a convergence of mutual needs and shared risks have spurred bilateral efforts for a Russo-Japan rapprochement as discussant Hirohisa Mori looks on.

Russo-Japanese relations are undergoing a fresh rejuvenation. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Sochi underscores his determination to end what he calls the "abnormal" situation, wherein Japan and Russia still have no peace treaty 69 years after the end of World War II. Beyond this fact and the associated territorial issues connected with the Kurile Islands seized by Moscow in 1945, both sides have ample economic and security reasons for getting together. In this presentation at the East-West Center in Washington, Dr. Stephen Blank outlined the latest developments in Russo-Japanese relations in both the economic and security spheres, analyzed the motivations of the two parties, and sought to look into the future of this rapprochement within the context of the highly dynamic and volatile Asian security equation.

As Dr. Blank explained, this new push coming from both sides, and is stemming from mutual needs, such has Japan's need for energy and Russia's need for investment in its energy-rich but underdeveloped Far East, and shared risks in the form of an ascendant China. For a long time, Russia has tried to "anchor" China as an anti-US balance in Asia, but now was tensions grow in the Russo-China relationship, its clear that Moscow can no longer anchor China on its own and needs Japan's support. While Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it is not Russia's policy to ally with one party against another, it is Dr. Blank's sense that Russia wants to try to build direct links both Japan and China while playing them against each other.

The territorial dispute over the Kurile islands remains, but Putin and Abe may be the only two leaders in recent years capable of breaking through on the issue, possibly by compromising by dividing the four disputed islands two-and-two along with a few yet to to be named concessions. According to Dr. Blank, the thinking in Washington since the end of WWII has been that Russia does not belong in East Asia and to keep the Japan separated from Russia. Despite this, we are in the middle of a process that could lead to a major Japan-Russia rapprochement.

Discussant Hirohisa Mori, began by sharing Japan's official stance concerning the territorial disputes between the two countries; that the northern territories-four islands off the coast of Hokkaido-are inherently Japanese territory that have been illegally occupied since WWII. He explained that if a way to resolve this issue can be found however, a peace treaty could be completed, removing the major obstacle to closer cooperation and investment. He described how increased partnership with Russia has become a high enough priority to work to resolve the territorial issue. This is partially due to a decreased perception of Russia as a threat, and how it is increasingly seen as a potentially valuable security partner through its participation in regional multilateral fora such as the East Asia Summit (EAS) and ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM+).

Dr. Stephen Blank is a Senior Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington. From 1989-2013 he was a Professor of Russian National Security Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania. Previous professorships have included University of Texas, San Antonio, and University of California Riverside. He has published over 900 articles and monographs and published or edited 15 books on Soviet/Russian, US, Asian, and European military and foreign policies and on international security in Eurasia. Dr. Blank's MA and PhD are in Russian History from the University of Chicago. He received his BA in History from the University of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Hirohisa Mori is a visiting research fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University. Prior to this, he served as the Director of the International Security Policy Office in Japan’s Ministry of Defense since 2010. Other assignments in the course of his twenty-year government career have included Senior Coordinator of the Secretariat of Strategic Headquarters for Space Policy (Cabinet Secretariat), and Deputy Director of the Defense Operations Division (MOD), and First Secretary at Japan’s Embassy in Canada. Mr. Mori received his Bachelor of Law from Tokyo University in 1992.

Primary Contact Info:
Name: Grace Ruch Clegg
Phone: 202-327-9762