'Establishment of a Positive Bilateral Interaction Model in the Russia-Japan Dialogue after the Cold War: Analysis of the 1990s Negotiations Tactics' - 'World Politics' - NotaBene.ru
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Establishment of a Positive Bilateral Interaction Model in the Russia-Japan Dialogue after the Cold War: Analysis of the 1990s Negotiations Tactics

Malashevskaya Mariya Nikolaevna

ORCID: 0000-0003-3087-8722

PhD in History

Docent, the department of Theory of Social Development of Asian and African Countries, Saint Petersburg State University

199034, Russia, g. Saint Petersburg, ul. Universitetskaya Nab., 11, of. 4a

Other publications by this author










Abstract: The paper deals with the Russian-Japanese interests-oriented model of cooperation in the 1990s within the framework of the diplomatic tactics and mechanisms introduced into the bilateral negotiations. In this research, the application of various negotiation instruments applied by the Japanese diplomacy toward the USSR and the Russian Federation in the late 1980s1990s is analyzed to demonstrate the process of establishing cooperation, despite territorial disagreements. According to the specific historical and political environment, application of the negotiation methods researched in this paper was not allowed before the middle 1980s, and the introduction of a wide range of such tactics within the 1990s is becoming an argument in favor of that point of view that there was welcomed a partnership model between Japan and the Russian Federation. No-necktie meetings, leader talks, informal negotiations, face-to-face diplomacy applied from the mid-1990s led to the introduction of a positive model of interaction compared to the tactics used by Japan in the early 1990s. The personal contribution of politicians and diplomats to create the foundation for multidimensional cooperation between Russia and Japan was essential. Japanese diplomats Tamba Minoru, Edamura Sumio, Togo Kazuhiko, politicians Nakayama Taro, Hashimoto Ryutaro, Obuchi Keizo, and Mori Yoshiro left a noticeable mark in the processes considered in our research, the works published by them became a valuable source for the analysis of the considered events.


Russian-Japanese negotiations, MOFA Russian school, no-necktie meetings, leaders talks, Edamura Sumio, Togo Kazuhiko, Tamba Minoru, face to face diplomacy, informal negotiations, Japans diplomacy

This paper examines diplomatic interaction of Japan and Russia, which has been going along the lines of the United Nations values stated, for example, in “Manila Declaration on Peaceful Settlement of International Disputes” (1982), that stipulates the “spirit of co-operation” and “friendly relations” between states, the principles of “avoiding disputes” and “settling international disputes by peaceful means in a manner that ensures international peace and security, and justice” as cornerstone values [8]. The USSR and Japan have had a years-long territorial dispute on some isles of the Kurile chain, which ought to be settled by negotiations as a foundation for interstate dialogue. Meanwhile, the confrontation between Japan and the USSR in the Cold War times minimized the chances to establish a ‘normal’ results-oriented model of cooperation till the end of the 1980’s, when the termination of the Cold War allowed to introduce a model of positive interaction based on peaceful means and common values. This research examines the attempt of implementation of interests-oriented and results-oriented relations focusing on the micro-level analysis of traditional and new negotiation tactics applied by the Japanese side in the dialogue with the late Soviet Union and the young Russian Federation in the last decade of the 20th century.

Notable, that from the end of the 1970’s the cultural dimensions of international relations attracted attention of the researchers around the world, and, so, the joint volume “Cultural Factors in International Relations” was published in 1981, a collection of papers devoted to the negotiators behavior during high-level bilateral talks. In his introduction to the volume, R.P. Anand underlined: “The representatives of states engaged in the process of negotiation of agreements at diplomatic conferences were conditioned by their cultural backgrounds and traditions in spite of being bound to protect the immediate interests of their countries in accordance with their briefs or instructions” [1, pp. 17 – 18]. Therefore, traditional behavior constituted by cultural identity and meanings becomes a leading factor in trans-national and cross-cultural talks among participants, forming the understanding of national interests and economic or security profits.

The late 1980’s can be considered as the time of great opportunities for the Japanese diplomacy to implement energetic activity towards the USSR. That was connected with the changes in the foreign policy doctrine of the Soviet leadership made by the head of the Soviet government M.S. Gorbachev in the mid-1980’s (“the policy of perestroika”, “new political thinking”). The Japanese government had nothing but promptly react to the rise of this kind of opportunity aiming to submit territorial claims to the USSR. Japanese diplomats began to apply wider instruments intending to achieve this purpose at the negotiations with the Soviet government. On the other hand, application of various negotiation tactics ought to be regarded as the evidence of transition of the bilateral relations to a new level of more productive, mutual interests-oriented cooperation and establishment of a ‘normal’ climate for the bilateral dialogue.

From the late 1980’s till the early 2000’s there were dramatic changes of the bilateral Soviet, then Russian dialogue with Japan. Owing to the “perestroika” policy in the USSR high-level bilateral dialogues intensified, resulting in the Soviet leader M.S. Gorbachov's visit to Japan in 1991. After the USSR collapse in 1992 – 1993, the two ministries of foreign affairs conducted negotiations concerning the Russian president B.N. Yeltsin's visit to Japan, however, due to non-effective negotiation tactics the president's visit to Japan was canceled in 1992. Nevertheless, with the reconsidered negotiation methods it became possible for the Russian president to undertake an official high-level visit to Japan in 1993 and to sign an official framework for the Russian-Japanese cooperation – “Tokyo Declaration”, in which any ideological restrictions on forming a positive results-oriented interaction model were delayed while common values of democracy and market economy were officially welcomed. “Tokyo Declaration” should be viewed as a step towards establishing new relations based on mutual interest. Notwithstanding this, there followed a four-year pause in bilateral negotiations (1993-1996), caused by the inner political and economic situations and challenges both in Russia and in Japan. The period between 1996 and 2001 saw a rise in the bilateral relations, in the form of a series of high-level talks in 1997 – 1998 – “no-necktie meetings” in Krasnoyarsk and Kawana and the official visit of the prime-minister of Japan to Moscow, with the “Moscow Declaration on Establishment of Creative Partnership between the Russian Federation and Japan” signed in 1998 as their result. This agreement shows mutual understanding on perspectives of bilateral cooperation and is to be considered as a foundation for results-oriented model of Japan-Russia cooperation, whereas the results-oriented paradigm is understood as the main pillar of a positive interaction model. V.V. Putin – Mori Yoshiro negotiations in 2000 – 2001 revealed mutual interest in intensifying and deepening of bilateral cooperation in various fields, aiming at advancing economic, political, international, security and cultural cooperation.

(1) Establishment of a basic concept for diplomacy

Formulation of a conceptual basis for the policy is considered as a fundamental value for the Japanese political thinking, which describes both its internal and foreign policy. This kind of approach allows to emphasize the priority goals and to draw up the action plan to achieve them. At the summit-meeting with M.S. Gorbachev in Moscow in the spring of 1989, the foreign minister Uno Sosuke suggested that the concept of “Equilibrium Balance” (kakudaikinko:) should be applied for the Soviet-Japanese dialogue. The concept was announced after a long period of stagnation in the bilateral relations and was expected to give a new impulse to the partnership between the USSR and Japan. “Equilibrium Balance” consisted of five points: (1) signing the peace treaty; (2) strengthening the relations based on mutual trust; (3) developing bilateral business contacts; (4) promoting people-to-people communication; (5) preparing M.S. Gorbachev's visit to Japan [21, p. 127],[38, pp. 25 – 27]. This concept represents a comprehensive action program. The essential feature of this approach is its positive perspective aimed at strengthening the constructive dialogue, rather than at deepening the existing contradictions, however it was just the last point to be put into force.

On September 24, 1991 during the session of the United Nations General Assembly, the concept of “Five Principles of Nakayama” was declared by the foreign minister Nakayama Taro, only two years after the announcement of the previous approach. New approach was declared at the time of a rising internal political crisis in the USSR and this step demonstrates Japan's attention to the changes in the Soviet Union. The concept consisted of the following five points: (1) full-scale support for reforms and full cooperation with the republics of the USSR; (2) rapid expansion and strengthening of the relations with all the republics, particularly with the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic (RSFSR), that shared the border with Japan; (3) maintenance and development of cooperation with the USSR with the purpose to transform it into a full-blooded member of the community of the Asia-Pacific Rim countries; (4) providing the USSR with assistance in its integrating into the international economic space and such organizations as the IMF and the World Bank; (5) signing the peace treaty and resolving the “territorial problem”, based on the principle of “legality and justice” which was proclaimed by the leaders of the RSFSR [14],[20, p. 249].

Comparing structure and contents of “Five Principles of Nakayama” with “Equilibrium Balance” reveals that “Five Principles” is a more detailed document applying to a number of goals which were set by the Japanese diplomacy towards the USSR. Foreign strategy toward the Soviet Union consisted in political and economic engagements put forward according to this strategic framework. Responding to a more active policy of the USSR in East Asia after Vladivostok speech of M.S. Gorbachev in 1986, the Japanese government reconsidered the Soviet state’s membership in the Asia-Pacific countries community [19, pp. 45-46]. The first two points of “Five Principles” are of great interest because of their political meaning. The Japanese side started to use separate or parallel talks with the Soviet Union government and the political elites of the republics. These talks can be considered as a foundation of interaction of Japan with the former Soviet republics, including the Russian Federation, after the USSR collapse in December 1991.

The concept of "Five Principles of Nakayama" remained the basis of the Japanese policy toward Russia until the announcement of the following concept in the mid-1990’s. Consequently, the Japanese government seemed to have no accurately formulated strategy of development of bilateral dialogue during the first years of existence of the Russian Federation and no new model could be created. The necessity to promote a new concept rose in 1996, as a result of the Liberal Democratic Party returning to power, which meant three years of political turbulence. Hashimoto Ryutaro's cabinet formulated “Multilevel Approach” (ju:zo:teki na apuro:chi) which consisted in development of multitrack Russian-Japanese ties both on bilateral and international levels. The cornerstone of the concept lies in three principles: “trust”, “mutual interests” and “long-term prospects” [21, p. 227]. Critical for both sides “territorial question”, which has not been resolved until today, had to become only one of the issues of the Russian-Japanese negotiations agenda [23, pp. 362 – 364],[36, p. 37 – 38]. High-level talks in 1997 – 1998 (Yeltsin-Hashimoto “no-ties meetings” and official visit of Obuchi Keizo to Moscow in November 1998) were conducted under the ideas of “Multilevel Approach”, which was introduced in the “Moscow declaration on establishment of creative partnership between the Russian Federation and Japan” [33, pp. 14 - 20].

However, it should be pointed out that the “Multilevel Approach”, which articulated a purpose to create the basis for ‘strategic partnership’ between Russia and Japan, had a positive effect on the establishment of partnership between the two countries at the dawn of the new millennium [21, p. 214]. Henceforth, the practice of formulation of the conceptual grounds for bilateral relations continued to be applied and even got a new form. Since the beginning of the 21st century the frameworks of Russian-Japanese relations have had a bilateral basis. For example, in 2003 the president of Russia V.V. Putin and the prime minister Koizumi Junichiro signed “The Russian-Japanese action plan” which designed the main ways of bilateral cooperation at the beginning of a new decade [39].

(2) Diplomatic pressure tactics

Diplomatic pressure tactic is the most inefficient negotiation method, because its introduction provoked the fall of bilateral dialogue between Russia and Japan. Using the diplomatic or oral “pressure tactics” for intergovernmental or business negotiations is not a technique used exclusively by the Japanese negotiators. This tactic is widespread in world practice. In business negotiations it is combined with a great variety of other techniques, and quite often it is transformed into an intimidation method aiming to reach short-term results [4]. The essential feature of diplomatic pressure is the use of any advantage of one side. However, these tactics, in the opinion of business community, is not effective, because under the pressure the second party has nothing but take a defensive position [32, pp. 107 - 112]. Kimura Hiroshi highlighted that the intimidation was applied by the USSR during the Japanese-Soviet negotiations in 1977 – the Soviet side estimated the Japanese delegation as a weak and unimportant negotiator, which affected negatively, even harmfully, the results of the bilateral fishery talks [7, pp. 36 - 38].

Diplomatic pressure was used by the Japanese side with respect to territorial claims which heavily relied on the economic aid and international recognition of the young Russian Federation and its government. Since the end of the 1980’s, the Japanese participants of negotiations tried to put the “territorial issue” forward at negotiations of all levels, intending to get a favorable for Japan solution. The issue was discussed at international summits, was included into official statements of the prime minister and the minister of foreign affairs, was raised during the visits of parliamentary delegations to Moscow and their meetings with M.S. Gorbachev, etc. The Japanese negotiators of different levels mentioned that “the problem of the northern territories” needs to be solved. That caused annoyance on the side of the Soviet leadership. In his memoirs M.S. Gorbachev describes the Japanese Socialist Party delegation visit on May 6, 1988, when the Socialist Party representatives were the first among Japanese official circles to bring up the question of M.S. Gorbachev's visit to Japan. M.S. Gorbachev specifically notes that the Japanese guest – Doi Takako – “did not manage to avoid raising the question of “unresolved problems” and the Declaration of 1956” [27, p. 259], the basic agreement between the USSR and Japan signed for termination of state of war between the two countries.

The “territorial issue” can be qualified as a chief goal for diplomatic pressure used by the Japanese negotiators. At each stage of negotiations, the Japanese side stated its position toward the “Kuril problem”, which annoyed the Soviet part. A visit of one of the leaders of the LDP (and the speaker of the lower house of the Diet at that time) Sakurauchi Yoshio is a telling example of applying these tactics. He arrived in Moscow in July 1990 to prepare M.S. Gorbachev's visit to Japan. In memoirs of the Japanese ambassador in Moscow Edamura Sumio (1990-1994) it is noted that Sakurauchi succeeded in meeting with the president of the USSR and acted in an extremely undiplomatic manner. After the statement of the Japanese position on the “territorial issue”, he demanded from the Soviet leader to pay close attention to this question during his visit to Japan. Edamura Sumio points out that M.S. Gorbachev was greatly displeased with that and said: “If I have to go to Japan to speak there only about one problem, then it might be better to reconsider the question of my visit” [38, p. 50]. According to the Japanese ambassador memoirs, the situation became very grave, threatening to cancel M.S. Gorbachov’s visit to Japan.

The preparation of the Russian Federation president's visit to Japan in 1992 became the most glaring example of “pressure tactics” employed by the Japanese side. The Japanese diplomats achieved the most deplorable results for diplomacy toward Russia, when, becoming aware of economic and political weakness of the Russian Federation, they sought to put enormous pressure upon president B.N. Yeltsin while his visit to Japan scheduled for the autumn of the same year was being prepared. The Japanese side promoted the necessity of “territorial issue” solution as the highest priority of the 1992 winter-spring bilateral negotiations at all international summits, including a meeting of “G7” in Munich in July 1992 [3]. At the final stage of preparing B.N. Yeltsin's visit, at the beginning of September 1992, the minister of foreign affairs Watanabe Michio arrived in Moscow [5]. He informed the Russian government about decisive steps of the Japanese side concerning compensations to the inhabitants of the Kurile islands for the cost of their property on the southern Kurile and their legal status after transferring the islands to Japan [34, p. 75]. Watanabe Michio openly demonstrated that the Japanese side considers the “territorial question” to be solved, confirming the prime minister Miyazawa Kiichi’s vision of the situation, announced during the meeting of “G7” a month earlier.

These actions of the Japanese side were regarded by the Kremlin as unprecedented pressure upon the Russian president leading to an international scandal – canceling the official president’s visit to Japan. One of the motives of the visit cancellation, as is sometimes considered, is a negative reaction of the Russian president to this pressure. The Japanese specialist in Russian affairs, diplomat Togo Kazuhiko expressed the similar vision and called the incident a “failure of the 1992 plan”. It is necessary to mention that many experts in the field of management and negotiations characterize “pressure tactic” as a most destructive if the negotiating parties seek to build up a long-term relationship. Within several years the crisis of trust to the Russian government in Japan was felt, some future-oriented politicians and diplomats spoke of the necessity for the both sides to loosen pressure on each other. Fortunately, some positive changes in model of bilateral interaction could have been noticed. The failure of the so-called “1992 plan” led to revision of the rhetoric on both sides: the Japanese government realized that it was important to refuse from “pressure tactics” in negotiations with B.N. Yeltsin, as his reaction to any external pressure was extremely negative [21, p. 224],[31, p. 104]. Since 1993, the basic principle of trust-oriented relations between the leaders and people of the two countries has become the priority of the Japanese side and is enshrined in “Tokyo declaration” 1993.

(3) “Face-to-Face Diplomacy”

At the end of the 20th century the Japanese MOFA put forward the principle of “mutual trust” for establishment of the bilateral relations with Russia considering it as a basis for future comprehensive cooperation. “Mutual trust” idea is reflected in “Tokyo Declaration” of 1993, and in his speech in 1997 at the assembly of Keidanren, Japan Business Federation, the prime minister Hashimoto introduced a new strategy toward Russia and welcomed “Eurasian diplomacy” of Japan, in which Russia is to be one of the regional attractors for Japan [21, p. 227]. The former diplomat and one of the leaders of “Russian school” of MOFA Togo Kazuhiko in an interview given to the author of this paper on December 7, 2017, in Kyoto underlined that trust-oriented relations (shinrai kankei) are to be evaluated as the most important part of diplomatic relations, as one of the ways to strengthen mutual trust in interaction with Russia and other countries as well as the turn to “face-to-face diplomacy” (kao to kao gaiko:) as an extremely fruitful method. Of note is the fact that implementation of this method was widely undertaken after the Cold War termination owing to Russia and Japan’s rapprochement in the 1990’s.

The “face-to-face diplomacy” focuses on strengthening interpersonal communications between Russian and Japanese societies in general. For instance, to represent the ways we mention the case of the diplomat Sato Masaru work conducted in the Soviet political environment at the end of the 1980’s – the beginning of the 1990’s. A vivid example of this diplomacy can be seen in communications of Japanese diplomat Sato Masaru with the Lithuanian politician V.N. Shved, who was a consistent supporter of maintaining the USSR integrity. Shved and Sato had numerous meetings in 1990–1991, discussed domestic situation in the USSR in informal settings in bars and restaurants. Sato wrote, that during one of such meetings, which took place in a casino in the fall of 1990, Shved told Sato about the beginning of the USSR collapse [12, pp. 281 – 282].

The “face-to-face diplomacy” began also to be applied at the regional level. For example, the politician Suzuki Muneo used this tactic in the talks with Russian Far East representatives. He was considered as one of influential specialists in the Japanese parliament (a Hokkaido deputy in the lower house) on the Russian-Japanese relations and was involved in bilateral governmental negotiations. Suzuki Muneo mentioned in his memoirs that Sato recommended him to visit Russia as often as possible and establish relations with representatives of the Russian society. Guided by the principle of the “face-to-face diplomacy”, Suzuki Muneo participated the parliamentary delegation in 1995 and made a trip to Kunashir Island where he got acquainted with local communities. He met with the director of one of Kunashir schools, considering these events as a “case” of establishing “face-to-face” network with Russians and studying Russian negotiating culture [17, pp. 175 – 176]. Suzuki Muneo particularly emphasizes that he enjoyed seeing confidence in the eyes of local Russians.

To perform results-oriented public policy in order to revive good communication with the Russian public opinion after the “failure of the 1992 plan”, Japanese diplomats in Moscow and personally the minister of the embassy (1994–1996) Togo Kazuhiko started to take rather careful steps, such as giving interviews to Russian journalists, in which he emphasized that the trust-oriented relations with Russia were favored by the Japanese government, as well as delivering lectures for the students of Moscow State University and MGIMO University (1995–1996) on the history of Russian-Japanese relations. He came up with the idea of “equilibrium dialogue” with Russia without exerting any emotional pressure on each other [35]. The translation of these vision and values into the public diplomacy was expected to deepen trust of the Russian people in the Japanese government actions.

We assume, that trust-oriented and long-term connections are a basic feature of the Japanese political culture. This approach was used toward Russia in the 1990’s. The ambassador of Japan in Russia in 1999-2002 Tamba Minoru emphasized that the purpose of the Japanese MOFA in the middle – the second half of the 1990’s was to establish long-term ties with the Russian side on the basis of mutual trust [18, 2012, p. 18]. The lawyers Kuroda Kenji and Zhang Danian noted that the focus on the long-term and step-by-step negotiations aimed at establishing confidential relations between partners is regarded to be central to the Japanese business culture [24, p. 201]. Kuroda and Zhang emphasized that Japanese businessmen studied the culture of negotiations in the western countries in the 1970’s –1980’s, but they did bring the traditions of Japanese management to the international scene [24, p. 206]. Intentions and actions of MOFA ‘Russian school’ (Sato Masaru, Togo Kazuhiko, Kawato Akio, Tamba Minoru and other diplomats) did not contradict this paradigm, because their efforts were directed to detailed studying of Russian political culture and internal political situation. They tried to search for similar Russian and Japanese negotiation models in order to achieve the most visible results.

Three options of “Face-to-Face Diplomacy”

Henceforth, we examine several sub-tactics which compose the “face-to-face diplomacy”: communication channel,informal negotiations, leaders talks. These tactics and formats of talks were introduced into negotiations on the basis of studying the Russian political culture in the atmosphere of Post-Cold-War rapprochement of Russia and Japan.

Method A. “Communication channel”

One of the most effective and wide spread negotiating tactics for the Japanese negotiators business as well as in diplomatic talks is looking for a “communication channel” and its establishing with a person from the other country’s leader environment for providing direct talks on necessary issues. The importance of creating a reliable “communication channel” with M.S.Gorbachev's associates was pointed out in the memoirs of Edamura Sumio. It took a long time to choose and establish direct contacts with M.S. Gorbachov's administration because of the reluctance and unwillingness of the Soviet side, but in the end Japanese diplomats understood that their search for direct channel was not going to get any help from the Soviet side and stopped their eyes on the president’s assistant for foreign policy A.S. Chernyaev [38, p. 113]. On January 8, 1991, the ambassador Edamura managed to meet with A.S. Chernyaev and carried out a preliminary discussion on the planned Gorbachov’s visit to Japan and its agenda. That helped to provide an opinion exchange between the USSR and Japan on the preparatory stage of talks, but the “communication channel” was not sufficient for the sustainable and deep dialogue necessary to establish a results-oriented model of cooperation.

After December 1991, when B.N. Yeltsin and his team came to power, the Japanese embassy made many attempts to establish a “communication channel” with B.N. Yeltsin's environment. The memoirs of Togo Kazuhiko and Sato Masaru speak of the unique role played by one of the closest to president Yeltsin politicians – G.E. Burbulis (the first and the last Minister of State in the RSFSR and the Russian Federation president administration), who was believed to have lobbied the Japanese interests in the Kremlin in the early 1990’s [21, p. 197]. Sato Masaru succeeded in establishing good personal relations with G.E. Burbulis, which helped to promote exchange of opinions at an informal level [12, pp. 374 – 375]. In the middle of September 1993 G.E. Burbulis paid an informal visit to Hokkaido. He had a meeting with people of Nemuro and visited prime minister of Japan Hosokawa Morihiro. Through G.E. Burbulis the prime minister transmitted his personal message to the Russian president about the program of further cooperation between Russia and Japan [30]. G.E. Burbulis really became a reliable “communication channel” between the Kasumigaseki and the Kremlin and acted as the personal envoy of the Russian President. This intensive dialogue between the Japanese diplomats and the young Russia politicians can hardly be considered as implementation of a true positive interaction model, because an appropriate balance of the dialogue hadn’t yet been found, however, still, the negotiations at the beginning of the 1990’s can be regarded as a start of Russia and Japan rapprochement.

After V.V. Putin came to power, the Japanese MOFA had nothing but resort to this tool again, feeling the necessity to find an effective “communication channel” with the new president environment. At the first stage, official channels and through the acquired connections with the previous president environment were put to action. But, in the middle of 2000 the Japanese side realized that V.V. Putin would build a new team. During his visit to Japan in September 2000 and later at the APEC summit in October 2000, it was agreed to organize high-level talks, at which the “territorial issue” was to be on the agenda. During the preliminary discussions, the Japanese side dealt with the secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation S.B. Ivanov who played the role of a main direct “communication channel” with the president of Russia in anticipation of the planned negotiations and estimated by the Japanese side as a “key figure and direct link with the Kremlin” [15, p. 155]. In December 2000, an official delegation of the Japanese government came to Moscow. Suzuki Muneo acted as a “special envoy” of the prime minister, acting the same role as G.E. Burbulis in 1993. The main function of a “special envoy” was to act as a “communication channel” for the Japanese side, to meet with representatives of the Russian president (a “communication channel” from the other side), to bring a “personal message” from the Japanese prime minister to the Russian president and back. In this framework of establishing “communication channels”, talks between Suzuki Muneo and S.B. Ivanov were held in Moscow on December 25, 2000, when the Japanese politician reported a personal letter of prime minister Mori to president Putin. This fact should be considered as an example of using “communication channel” tactics because the message of the Japanese prime minister was clearly directed to the president of Russia. “Communication channels” allowed to introduce a more or less trust-oriented and results-oriented dialogue helping to establish a new model of interest-oriented cooperation with strong public and political ties, as that is put in practice with other Asian countries, like Vietnam [19, p. 204].

Method B. Informal Negotiations

Informal talks are a worldwide tactics resorted to by all governments in different historical epochs in order to exchange opinions and reach an agreement on issues of common interest. In the case of the USSR-Japan diplomatic dialogue during the Cold War period informal talks were scarce, which can be understood as weak intentions of both sides to establish a constructive dialogue. The intention to introduce a new paradigm of relations in the Post-Cold War period made it possible to conduct informal talks with the purpose of reaching an agreement on numerous complex issues of bilateral relations.

The essential feature of adoption of this tactic by Russia and Japan in the 1990’s lies in the choice of the place for talks which would allow to conduct meeting in a free informal atmosphere. L. Aronson noted that negotiations in an informal atmosphere, if they are well-prepared and the sides going step-by-step, are especially effective and promising in the case of conflict and compromise bringing peaceful solutions [2, p. 10]. Notably, the informal talks tactics is also widely used in the Japanese political and business practice as a management technique called “nemawashi” and “honne”. Both principles assume preliminary informal coordination and consultations of the sides aimed to search for a compromising solution [24, p. 199],[6, p. 128].

The case for our study is “no-necktie meetings” between president B.N. Yeltsin and prime minister Hashimoto Ryutaro in 1997–1998 in Krasnoyarsk and Kawana. “Russian school” of MOFA insisted on holding informal talks between the leaders for the first time over a long period of bilateral negotiations in order to come to a compromise on the territorial dispute in the first place and to widen Russian-Japanese cooperation in various fields under the ideas of the “Multilevel Approach” concept. Providing a new experience for the Japanese diplomacy in Russia “Russian school” representatives demonstrated high expectations, that were not to be realized.

The agreement to conduct informal talks was reached at the venue of 23rd “G7/8” Summit in Denver, the US, in July 1997 when the Japanese and Russian heads of states had a bilateral meeting [18, p. 17]. The first informal Russian-Japanese summit was opened in a Siberian center – the city of Krasnoyarsk – on November 1-2, 1997. The meeting in Krasnoyarsk was carried out ‘behind the closed doors’ that brought about waves of criticism of the president of Russia. The delegation of Japan, headed by prime minister Hashimoto Ryutaro, was thoroughly prepared both in proposals and in the style of negotiating with the Russian president. Despite adopting a new “Multilevel Approach” concept towards Russia aimed at strengthening comprehensive partnership between the two countries, the central objective of the Japanese delegation was their strong intention to find a compromise on the “territorial issue”. In order to resolve this issue “Russian school” of MOFA had provided a special training for prime minister Hashimoto so as to create a unique tactic for his negotiation with B.N. Yeltsin, based on meticulous analysis of the Russian president’s nature and preferences [17, p. 180],[15, p. 190]. According to the memoirs of B.N. Yeltsin: “On November 1, 1997, the prime minister of Japan Ryutaro Hashimoto and I were fishing in the neighborhood of Krasnoyarsk. ... With Ryu we had to fish up from the Yenisei River not only fish, but also peace. The true peace, laid on the foundation of precise arrangements” [28, p. 135]. That means that the basic aim of the head of the Russian Federation was to conclude a Peace Treaty.

An informal discussion was held in the ‘closed doors format’ and Hashimoto Ryutaro and Boris Yeltsin agreed on “Yeltsin-Hashimoto plan” for deepening comprehensive cooperation [20, p. 254]; one point of the plan was to negotiate and sign the Peace Treaty by the end of 2000 [29, p. 38],[10, p. 556]. The Russian and Japanese representatives discussed the roots of the idea to have the Peace Treaty concluded before the end of 2000, pondering whether it had its origins in the Japanese or Russian side, because the negative public reaction both in Russia and in Japan made the governments of the two countries try to dodge the responsibility and shoulder it the other party. In fact, the final decision on this plan was not reached. Regardless of this, the implementation of informal talks format made it possible to establish intensive high-level communication which, in turn, contributed to developing normal bilateral relations.

The spirit of joint problem-solving intentions and positive effect of informal talks between the heads of states deepened at the second “no-necktie” summit, which took place in the Japanese resort town of Kawana (Shizuoka prefecture) on April 18–19, 1998. The Japanese side announced the so-called “Kawana plan” or “Plan of delimitation” which consisted in demarcating the borders between Russia and Japan: drawing the frontier between the Islands of Iturup and Urup [18, p. 74 - 77]. The plan was based on the terms of the first Russian-Japanese treaty in Shimoda [37, p. 128 - 129],[21, p. 250],[15, p. 26]. The former diplomat Sato Masaru noted that the plan was intended to be a “secret plan”. Not enough information concerning the scope of the negotiations is available, but according to Sato Masaru, the Kawana “secret plan” on the “territorial issue” was to level up the interaction of Japan and Russia, strengthening ties with the US creating the “Northern Alliance” to be able to balance against rising China [13, pp. 344 - 345]. In the view of our research, the “secret negotiations” and intention to deepen Russia-Japan cooperation in international matters shows that the informal talks became an effective instrument in establishing direct confidential bilateral relations, but was not acceptance by the public in Russia and Japan. The official proclamation of the Kawana talks agreements took place during the official visit of the prime minister of Japan to Moscow in November 1998. The Russian side rejected the “Kawana proposal” because of the changes in the Japanese government, as Hashimoto Ryutaro was not re-elected as a prime minister in July 1998, and a severe financial crisis in Russia in August 1998. In spite of the fact that the “Kawana proposal” had not been put into force, some other points of “Yeltsin-Hashimoto plan” were implemented in “Moscow declaration on establishment of creative partnership between the Russian Federation and Japan”, signed by the heads of states on November 13, 1998, giving a layout for multilevel cooperation at the turn of 21st century. The informal talks were widely used between the Russian and Japanese parties in the 1990’s within the multitrack diplomacy framework and were raised to the level of leader’s informal talks and are considered to have made a considerable contribution to normalization and intensification of bilateral interaction for the first time in the Post-Cold War period. Leaders talks of formal and informal type were used extensively in Russia-Japan negotiations especially during V.V. Putin's presidency since 2000.

Method 3. Leaders talks

Since the middle of the 1990’s the aim of the Japanese MOFA has consisted in establishing direct contacts between the leaders of Russia and Japan. The case of V.V. Putin and Abe Shinzo's summit in December 2016 in Japan and intensive direct talks in 2017 - 2018 deserves to be viewed as an example of this approach. Traditionally, the decision-making level of negotiations in Japan is not the level of top-managers (CEOs), who just proclaim the final decision for cooperation with their business partner, the decision prepared for them by middle managerial staff (chiefs of departments and deputy directors in case of MOFA), who directly negotiates with partners [24, pp. 197 - 200]. Nevertheless, in 1996-1998 MOFA focused attention on introduction of leader’s direct talks. That was nothing new for the Japanese diplomacy, for example, the prime minister Nakasone Yasuhiro managed to come into good contact with the U.S. President R. Reagan, thus succeeding in developing a dialogue based on trust and leading to results-oriented talks between Japan and US [22, p. 94].

President B.N. Yeltsin’s policy gave the MOFA’s ‘Russian school’ the grounds for development and deployment of negotiating tactics at the level of the leaders of the two countries. The former diplomats Togo Kazuhiko and Sato Masaru paid close attention to B.N. Yeltsin's personal features and his vision of the future of Russian-Japanese interaction. Togo Kazuhiko especially emphasized the fact that high-level summit talks were a rare opportunity for Japan to achieve success in negotiations with Russia [21, p. 224]. According to his memoirs, a favorable situation for leaders talks occurred in 1996–1997, which was due the Hashimoto cabinet coming to power [21, p. 221]. In June 1996 the prime minister of Japan held an important dialogue with the Russian president on international issues and various issues of the Russian-Japanese relations at the venue of “G7” summit in Denver. Togo marked out that during these negotiations Hashimoto Ryutaro sought to build a good contact with the president of Russia in order to establish a strategic partnership with Russia in the future [21, p. 225].

Yeltsin–Hashimoto ‘no-necktie talks’, in addition to the establishment of truly confidential relations between the leaders, assumed their personal responsibility for the decisions made at the meeting. The main purpose consisted in establishing personal friendly relations between B.N. Yeltsin and Hashimoto Ryutaro. The Japanese diplomacy managed to achieve this objective. During those talks the Russian side sought the Japanese assistance to get a membership in APEC, and with the Japanese support Russia joined this international organization in 1998. Moreover, with regard to the desire of B.N. Yeltsin's administration to join the “G7”, Hashimoto Ryutaro sought to mediate this matter with the administration of the Russian president, the administration of the U.S. President B. Clinton and German Chancellor G. Kohl [21, p. 222].

The same model of leaders talks based on confidential relations between the state leaders had to be implemented in 2000 when the new prime minister of Japan Mori Yoshiro paid his first informal foreign visit to Russia in order to conduct a meeting with the new elected president of the Russian Federation - V.V. Putin in April 2000 in St. Petersburg. Of note is the fact that the visit was of informal character [25]. In 2000-2001 Mori and Putin met over ten times at the venues of international summits and during their bilateral meetings. Mori-Putin talks should be considered as the most telling and bright illustration of leaders talks tactics in its application. The confidential human relations were formed between the two leaders, which helped to promote exchange of opinions on international issues and on complex issues of bilateral relations. Japan considers the Irkutsk summit of 2001 as the culmination of this dialogue, when the “Irkutsk Joint statement” was adopted aiming to deepen the bilateral cooperation in international, economic, cultural fields and make a leap forward to a final solution of the territorial dispute.

The model of Putin-Mori leaders talks was introduced after 2012 when the strong leaders V.V. Putin and Abe Shinzo were elected to become state leaders. In the run-up to the Abe visit to Russia in 2013 the former prime minister Mori Yoshiro came Moscow [26]. In early 2000, Suzuki Muneo – the “special envoy” of prime ministers Obuchi Keizo and Mori Yoshiro – handed a personal message to president V.V. Putin [20, p. 257], and had a meeting with Russian leader in April 2000 [16, p. 65]. In 2013 the “personal envoy” of Abe Shinzo – Mori Yoshiro – handed a message to president V.V. Putin in anticipation of Abe's visit with the purpose to prepare the Abe-Putin negotiations aimed at deepening mutual trust and seeking for a new positive interaction model. As a result, in April 2013 Abe Shinzo came to Moscow and “Joint statement” – actually the concept of the Russian-Japanese relations in the second decade of the 21st century – was signed [9]. In 2016, the Russian president's visit to Japan combined both elements of leader talks and elements of informal talks, when Abe Shinzo invited the Russian high guest to his native Prefecture of Yamaguchi, aiming to deepen personal ties [11]. Thereafter working groups consultations between the governments were conducted in 2016-2018, as well as high-level talks.

Considering negotiating tactics of the Japanese side in 2013-2016 we can note that, first of all, tactics for establishment of a “communication channel” was widely applied by Japanese MOFA. Sending the “personal envoy” of the prime minister should be considered as a variation of this tactics. Secondly, during 1996-1998 and 2000–2001 the tactics of leaders’ talks was introduced as the basic results-oriented technology on negotiations, seeking for the creation of direct contact between V.V. Putin and Abe Shinzo. The arrangements of 2013 and 2016 confirm efficiency of the chosen tactics.


The 1990’s became a period when a new model of results-oriented cooperation between Russia and Japan was established, while both sides intended to deepen bilateral dialogue under the spirit of “Multilevel Approach”. In the face of “Russian School” of the MOFA, the Japanese government put forward numerous newly adopted tactics the most important of which became the establishment of a basic concept for diplomacy that formed a framework for the politicians and diplomats’ activities. The usage of two contrary tactics – diplomatic pressure and “face-to-face diplomacy” - reduced the inefficiency of the first approach and gave a fruitful impetus of the second one. We examined only three tactical tricks, used in the last decade of 20th century by the Japanese diplomats in negotiations with their Russian counterparts. These tactics – “communication channel”, “informal negotiations”, “leader talks” – allowed to establish a model of cooperation based on mutual interests after the period of antagonism during the Cold War. That doesn’t mean the solvation of maintaining problems of bilateral relations, but the modus of interaction changed to the positive manner. At the same time, adoption of those tactics highlighted the importance of the “human dimension” in forming a “face-to-face” dialogue, since the diplomacy consists in humans’ connections. Therefore, in the 1990’s the intention of diplomats from both sides allowed to create a results-oriented ties between the peoples and the governments of Japan and Russia. Finally, the intensive field work of the Japanese diplomats, who researched into Russian political culture, personal features of president B.N. Yeltsin's behavior, his environment, all these were used to diminish cultural differences between the Russians and the Japanese during the negotiations and allowed to find a ground to provide fruitful talks. The tactics, analyzed and presented in this paper, are often used in the work of high-level bilateral summits at present, therefore, this analysis could help to understand national logic and behavior of the Japanese side.

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