Leaders from Japan and Russia will likely to hold talks at an Asia-Pacific summit in mid-November, Japan’s top government spokesman said on Tuesday, despite a diplomatic row over disputed islands that both nations claim.
The flare-up of the feud over the islands, triggered by a visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to one of the islands on Monday, adds to Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan’s diplomatic headaches as he struggles to repair ties with Beijing, strained by another territorial row.
Medvedev visited one of four disputed islands known as the Southern Kuriles in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, a move that was likely to snarl ties between the two nations ahead of the November 13-14 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders summit that Japan will host.
“I think that bilateral talks will be held,” Chief Cabinet Secretary told a news conference, adding that Tokyo would consider what would be an appropriate next step after lodging a protest with the Russian envoy on Monday.
Japanese Economic minister Banri Kaieda expressed worries that the Japan-Russia row could affect economic ties, but economists saw no substantial economic impact.
“Japan and Russia have deep ties when it comes to energy and natural resources development,” Japanese Economics minister Banri Kaieda told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
“I am worried about the impact on economic relations from the Russian president’s visit to the Northern Territories.”
Trade flows with Russia are relatively small compared with China, which became Japan’s biggest trade partner last year.
Japan’s exports to Russia totalled 306.5 billion yen in 2009, about 2 percent of its exports to China and its imports from Russia came to 825.5 billion yen in 2009, accounting for 1.6 percent of Japan’s total imports.
“Japan imports liquefied gas, but that can be imported from elsewhere as can oil. This is not an EU-Russia situation so the impact is very limited,” said Martin Schulz, a senior economist at Fujitsu Research Institute.