Japan and Russia have already shown a propensity for cooperation ... including security. Japan has engaged in positive outreach toward Russia, though not some of its other neighbours like South Korea, this year in reaction to provocations from North Korea. After North Korea’s fourth nuclear test and a rocket launch, Abe and his government made a point of reaching out specifically to Russia for a coordinated response.
Public diplomacy is also another area of great potential between the two countries. Despite the ongoing feud at official levels in Moscow and Tokyo, many ordinary Japanese and Russian citizens in the areas near the two countries — including the population on the Kuril Islands/Northern Territories themselves — have shown a propensity for cooperation and interdependence.
Russia’s Far Eastern territories enjoy strong relationships with several of Japan’s prefectures, especially on the level of so-called ‘people’s diplomacy’. In the disputed Kuril Islands/Northern Territories, the ethnically-Russian population has, over the years, developed a great deal of contact and sound relations with the people in the northern part of Hokkaido. Their mutual dependence and exchange has made these communities arguably closer to each other than to their respective capitals.
With a prospective meeting between the Japanese and Russian heads of state tentatively scheduled for September, there is no shortage of talk between the two sides on deepening bilateral ties. Behind these public professions are several concrete areas for potential cooperation, on which both the Japanese and Russian governments can capitalise. Vigilance will be required to avoid the snare of excessive reliance on energy as a tool for augmenting relations.
Japan–Russia relations need more than just energy is republished with permission from East Asia Forum