Kotegawa Report on Eastern Economic Forum—Japan-Russia Relations

The joint press conference held by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, September 2, 2017

The joint press conference held by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, September 2, 2017

Sept. 9, 2017 (EIRNS)—Daisuke Kotegawa, former Japanese Finance Ministry official and Japan’s Executive Director at the IMF, attended the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok this past week. He told EIR that the relationship between Japan and Russia has reached a new high at the event. Of the 3,500 attendees at the Forum, fully 1,300 were from Japan, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and three of his ministers, and a large number of business leaders. There was concrete discussion of jointly building a rail connection between Russia and Japan—first from the Russian mainland to Sakhalin Island, and then from Sakhalin to Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido. Putin described the project as "absolutely global in nature," and suggested it could be completed within three to five years.

Daisuke Kotegawa, a former member of the Japanese Finance Ministry, speaks to the Schiller Institute's conference in Berlin, June 2016

Daisuke Kotegawa, a former member of the Japanese Finance Ministry, speaks to the Schiller Institute's conference in Berlin, June 2016

Kotegawa said that the business leaders were extremely enthusiastic, perceiving that the political relations between the two countries—which have never signed a peace treaty to end World War II due to conflicting sovereignty claims over the four Kuril Islands (called the Northern Territories in Japan)—had so improved that they could begin to think freely of joint investment and development projects without concern for political problems interfering.

He said that China’s participation was significantly lower than last year, which was explained by the need to prepare for the CPC Central Committee meeting which will begin Oct. 18. Nonetheless, representatives from the northern provinces were there and concluded some agreements to expand cooperation with Russia in the Far East.

To his surprise, California Gov. Jerry Brown was invited to speak, first at the Plenary Session, and then at a forum sponsored by the Valdai Club titled "The Russia-China-Japan-U.S. Quadrangle: Are There Opportunities for Cooperation?" At the Plenary, Brown gave his usual green speech, calling on Russia and others to follow California’s lead in green suicide. But at the Valdai event, he strongly advocated improved U.S.-Russia relations. As RT reports it, he said: "Relations between the U.S. and Russia aren’t at their best, but can become much better." RT reports that he said the mood towards Russia isn’t great in Washington at the moment, but "the two nations have overcome poor relations before."

Mr. Kotegawa, who reads the EIR Daily Alert, asked a question from the floor (noting that he had studied at Stanford during Brown’s first round as Governor), referring to Dianne Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi’s recent change of tone toward President Trump, and asked Brown if he would mobilize Democrats to restore relations with Russia. Brown was enthusiastic, saying:

"I would recall the mood in 1984-1985, when Russia was described as an evil empire, but very soon thereafter, there were the very important agreements between President Reagan and President Gorbachev."

Brown thanked Kotegawa for the question afterwards.

When asked about the U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia in August, Brown said the American consul in Vladivostok showed him his speeches where he is urging more trade and investment with the United States.

"So I know the sanctions are a very serious matter, but there [is] still room for trade, for understanding, and for cooperation. And I am looking in various ways to pioneer that positive path, at least from the point of view of California,"

he said, as reported in RT.

Kotegawa also said that the speeches by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and from the new Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga, were excellent and well-received. He added that Abe, Putin and Battulga (who, like Putin, is a black belt in judo) attended a judo match after the Forum!