25 Dec 2009

Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada: Six-party talks optimal format for solving N. Korea’s nuclear problem

Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada told Interfax in an exclusive interview ahead of his visit to Moscow that six-party talks is the best for solving the North Korean nuclear issue and that the unresolved territorial dispute impacts Japanese-Russian bilateral relations.

"North Korea‘s nuclear and missile developments pose a serious threat to peace and stability not only in this region but to the entire international community as well. They are unacceptable," Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said.
"Securing a verifiable and irreversible renouncement by North Korea fr om its nuclear programs as soon as possible is crucial," he added.
"Six-party consultations are the most realistic format for a complex solution to the problems surrounding North Korea," he said. However, he did not specify when the talks could be resumed.
"We need to continue to work patiently towards their swift resumption involving the diplomatic efforts of concerned parties," he said.
Speaking about bilateral relations, particular trade Okada noted that the financial and economic crisis has strongly impacted Japanese-Russian economic relations.
"In 2008 trade turnover between Japan and Russia reached about $30 billion growing five-fold in five years. In 2009 it has so far amounted to only 40% of last year‘s sum," he said.
Nevertheless Japanese companies continue entering the Russian market even after the beginning of the crisis, he said.
The Nissan plant in St. Petersburg started operating in May, he said. Such companies as Komatsu and Yokohama rubber are building their facilities in Russia, he said. The fact that Japanese companies are active in Russia is a sign of the great potential of bilateral cooperation in the economic sphere, he said.
Okada said there are also great possibilities for cooperation between Japan and Russia in Asia and the Pacific.
The Sakhalin-II project is a symbol of Japanese-Russian mutually-beneficial cooperation in Asia and the Pacific, he said. The production of liquefied natural gas was launched in Russia in the framework of the project with the help of Japanese technology know-how, he said.
Okada said that the modernization of the economy, primarily greater economic effectiveness, has become a priority task for Russia.
"Japan has high technologies in these spheres as well, therefore we can cooperate with Russia that is seeking economic development though innovation," he said.
However, there are other things but the economic crisis that impact Russian-Japanese bilateral relations. In particular, Moscow is protracting the resolution of the territorial dispute, he said.
"It has been more than 60 years since this problem arose. How much longer do we need?" Okada said.
"The Japanese people feel distrust towards Russia‘s endless efforts to delay this issue," the minister said.
"As long as it is being delayed, Russia‘s image will not change in the eyes of the Japanese, and ‘partnership relations‘ will be just words," he said.
To develop serious relations "the bilateral relations need to be fully stabilized and a peace agreement must be signed to finally resolve the problem of who owns the four Northern Islands," the Japanese foreign minister said.
"If we call each other partners in the Asia-Pacific region, the current situation, wh ere the uncertainty of the national borders between us results in the lack of a peace agreement, is extremely unnatural," the Japanese minister.
It is not easy to settle this problem because Japan and Russia see it from a different legal perspective, he said.
"However, the two countries‘ leaders confirm their intention to resolve it in our lifetime," he said.
"Fortunately, Prime Minister Hatoyama and President Medvedev have established good personal relations during their high-level meetings," Okada said.
The issue will be discussed with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during his visit to Moscow on December 27-28, he said.
"To help the high level dialog, I am going to discuss specific ways of resolving the problem with Foreign Minister Lavrov in a calm atmosphere," Okada said.