The G7 Summit: Japan puts diplomatic pressure on Yeltsin
Tuesday 07 July 1992
The Japanese plan is not intended to exclude the Russian President from future G7 summits. But it is intended to increase the pressure on Mr Yeltsin to return the four Kurile islands off Japan's northern coast, which were seized by Stalin at the end of the Second World War, before the 1993 summit takes place.
Mr Yeltsin, who arrives in Munich today, said yesterday that other leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States had authorised him to ask for several years' deferral of interest and principal repayments on the Soviet foreign debt. Theo Waigel, Germany's Finance Minister, said that a debt moratorium could be on the cards. But there are clear differences between G7 nations over how to treat Mr Yeltsin when he arrives, of which the most prominent is Japan's reluctance over its lost territories.
At last year's summit, Japan unsuccessfully pressed Mikhail Gorbachev to hand back the islands. Despite Mr Gorbachev's refusal to do so, Japan agreed to participate in a plan, hatched earlier this year, to assemble a dollars 24bn ( pounds 12.6bn) financial aid package for Russia, the first tranche of which was formally unlocked yesterday. But Japan's patience on the islands issue appears to have run out. It plans to exploit its role as future summit host to the full. A decision on whether to invite Mr Yeltsin will be delayed, if Japan has its way.
Japanese officials attending this week's summit are blunt about future aid to Russia. It will all depend on Mr Yeltsin. He is due in Tokyo in September. Japanese officials describe it as a crucial visit, with its centrepiece the unresolved islands question and the unsigned peace treaty between the two countries. The absence of an invitation this week, Japan hopes, will force Mr Yeltsin to capitulate by September.
Russia's refusal to hand the islands back has also sunk its chances of expanding the G7 to a Group of Eight. Most members - Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Germany and the United States - are sensitive to Japan's concerns. But beyond that, Russia has a long way to go before it achieves the status of a free-market democracy.
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