The G7 Summit: Japan extracts Kuriles concession

JAPAN'S Prime Minister, Kiichi Miyazawa, was jubilant yesterday after winning the political concession he came to Munich to extract - inclusion of his country's territorial dispute with Russia on the G7 agenda for the first time.

The long-disputed wording was a typical example of summit horse-trading; in his case, of a country using its economic clout to gain political advantage. Summit sources said Japan, which has been less sympathetic to Russia's needs because of Russian occupation of the Kurile Islands, had made concessions on the issue of Russian debt rescheduling, which it previously opposed.

Japanese sources said the inclusion of the Kuriles issue on the agenda was crucial to Mr Miyazawa's political survival at home. Not only are there senate elections in Japan in less than three weeks, but he is also under pressure from factions in his own Liberal Democratic Party.

Foreign ministers and experts of the other six agonised long and hard over the seemingly anodyne wording of point I9 of the Political Declaration to avoid cornering President Yeltsin on the issue. They went out of their way to avoid the word 'territories', as Northern Territories is what Japan calls the four islands.

Mr Miyazawa was happy, Japanese sources said, that the wording finally included 'territorial issue', and that it made reference to 'Russia's commitment to a foreign policy based on the principle of law and justice' as a 'basis for full normalisation of the Russian- Japanese relationship'. The interpretation of law in this case could go either way, however.

Some Japanese officials said they would have liked more support from their G7 colleagues. One Western official said of the Kuriles issue: 'We believe it is a wrong occupation, not an illegal occupation.' However, Japan has some further leverage over Mr Yeltsin. It ensured that he is not automatically invited to next year's economic summit in Tokyo, as he had hoped, and that the G7 is not widened to include Russia.