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Eventually, Yeltsin canceled his trip to Japan, thus, forfeiting the opportunity to create the foundation for gradual improvement of relations, if not for a quick resolution to the territorial question. Five years later, we are still waiting. The documents introduced here illustrate the complexities of the political dynamics under which Gorbachev, and then Yeltsin, had to operate. They also show how unrealistic it was for the Japanese government to press hard on Yeltsin to accept Japan's sovereignty, residual or otherwise, over the entire four islands.
Needless to say, these documents expose merely a tip of the gigantic iceberg of information which is still hidden under the sea of secrecy. They illuminate only a few tiny spots in recent Soviet/Russian-Japanese relations. Also the manner in which these documents have fallen into my hands—not through the open, systematic, institutional approach, but through coincidence and accident—is not reassuring. Of course, having only one side's account leaves many doubts that can only be fully answered by comparable openness on the Japanese side. Even the Russian materials lose much of their importance, unless they are placed in the appropriate archival context. Nevertheless, I hope that the publication of these sources will stimulate further openness, research and collaboration among scholars and governments in order to move the historical study of Soviet/Russian Japanese relations further into the mainstream of scholarly inquiry.
(Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994); and Joachim Glaubitz, Between Tokyo and Moscow: the History of an Uneasy Relationship, 1972 to the 1990s (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1995). Two excellent monographs dealing with specific aspects of Soviet-Japanese relations are: Gilbert Rozman, Japan's Response to the Gorbachev Era, 1985-1991: A Rising Superpower View's a Declining One (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992) and John J. Stephan, The Russian Far East: A History (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), but because of the specific aspects to which they are devoted, new archival evidence on Soviet-Japanese relations does not emerge in these books. 5
In Japanese, there exist collections of documents: Shigeta Shigeru and Suezawa Shoji, Nisso kihonbunsho shiryoshu (Soviet-Japanese Basic Documents Sourcebook] (Tokyo: Sekai no ugoki sha, 1988); Hopporyodo mondai taisaku kyokai, Zoho kaitei: Hopporvodo mondai shiryoshu (Northern Territories Question Sourcebook: Revised and Enlarged). (Tokyo: Hopporyodo mondai taisaku kyokai, 1972). See also the joint publication by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation, Nichirokan ryodomondai no rekishi ni kansuru kyodo sakusei shiryoshu: Sovmestnyi sbornik dokumentov po istorii territorial'nogo razmezhevaniia mezhdu Rossiei i laponiei (Joint documentary compendium on the Russo-Japanese territorial issue's history] (Tokyo and Moscow: Nihonkoku Gaimusho and Ministerstvo inostrannykh del Rossiiskoi Federatsii, 1993). In Russian, Sbornik not i zaiavlenii pravitelstv SSSR, SSha, Kitaia, Anglii i drugikh stran po voprosu mirnogo uregulirovaniia dlia laponii: iul 1947 g.-iul' 1951 g (Moscow, 1951); Sbornik osnovnykh dokumentov po laponii, 1951-1954 (Moscow: Ministerstvo inostrannykh del, 1954); Sbornik osnovnykh dokumentov po voprosam sovetsko-iaponskikh otnoshenii, 1954-1972 (Moscow: Ministerstvo inostrannykh del SSSR, 1973), but the first collection was published in only 100 copies, and the second and the third volume 300. All collections are classified, and inaccessible to outside scholars, although I have had access to the third volume. 6
“Za kulisami Tikhookeanskoi bitvy: (Iapono-sovetskie kontakty v 1945 g.): Stranitsy istorii,” Vestnik MIDa SSSR, October, 1990; "K politike SSSR na Dal’nem Vostoke v preddverii nachala Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny: Kontakty I.V. Stalina s politikami Kitaia i laponii,” Diplomaticheskii vestnik No. 23-24 (1994): 7178; “Soglashaetsia na peredachu laponii ostrovov Khabomai i Sikotan,” Staraia ploshchad': vestnik arkhiva Prezidenta Rossiiskoi Federatsii, No. 6 (1996): 107-137. 7
For instance, the Japanese government sent seven volumes of documents dealing with territorial questions to the U.S. government during the occupation period. Of these the volume dealing with the Northern Territories has not been declassified. 8
Graham Allison, Hiroshi Kimura, and Konstantin Sarkisov, Beyond Cold War to Trilateral Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region: Scenarios for New Relationships between Japan, Russia, and the United States (Cambridge, Mass.: Strengthening Democratic Institutions Project, Harvard University, 1992), Appendix D, and F-N; Peter Berton, The Japanese-Russian Territorial Dilemma: Historical Background, Dispute, Issue, Questions, Solutions, Scenarios: White Paper (Cambridge, Mass.: Strengthening Democratic Institutions Project, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 1992). 9
Tanaka Takahiko, Nisso kokko kaiku no shiteki kenkyu: sengo nissokankei no kiten: 1945-1956 (Historical Studies of the Development of Japanese-Soviet Diplomatic Relations: The
Tsuyoshi Hasegawa is Professor of Russian History at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He is the author of The February Revolution: Petrograd, 1917 (Seattle, 1981) and co-editor of Russia and Japan: An Unresolved Dilemma Between Distant Neighbors (Berkeley, CA, 1993).
Cold War International History Bulletin, 1-9. (Ed. note: On the other hand, several articles and documents have touched on Japan and its place in the Cold War. For an example in this issue, Bulletin 10, see Zhai Qiang's article on the second Chinese nuclear test.) 2
Vojtech Mastny, The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity: The Stalin Years (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996). 3
Michael Schaller, The American Occupation of Japan: The Origins of the Cold War in Asia (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985); Marc Gallichio, “The Kurile Controversy: U.S. Diplomacy in the Soviet-Japanese Border Dispute, 1941-1956," Pacific Historical Review, LX, No. 1 (February 1991). 4
Myles I. C. Robertson, Soviet Policy toward Japan: An Analysis of Trends in the 1970s and 1980s (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Harry Gelman, Russo-Japanese Relations and the Future of the U.S. -Japanese Alliance (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 1993); Charles E. Ziegler, Foreign Policy and East Asia: Learning and Adaptation in the Gorbachev Era (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993); William Nimmo, Japan and Russia: a Reevaluation in the Post-Soviet Era
Starting Point of Post-War Japanese-Soviet Relations, 1945-56) (Tokyo: Yuhikaku, 1993); Fiona Hill, “A Disagreement between Allies: the United Kingdom, the United States, and the SovietJapanese Territorial Dispute,” Journal of Northeast Asian Studies, 14, No. 3 (Fall 1995). 10
Boris Slavinskii, Sovetskaia okkupatsiia Kuril’skikh ostrovov, avgust-sentiabr' 1945 goda: dokumental'noe issledovanie (Moscow, 1993); Pakt o neitralitete mezhdu SSSR i laponiei: diplomaticheskaia istoriia, 1941-1945 88 (Moscow: BBK, 1995) Japanese translation, Kosho: nisso churitsu joyaku (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1996); “San Frantsiskii mirnyi dogovor," Znakomites' laponiia, No. 5 (1994): 53-59; No. 6 (1994): 50-58; No. 7 (1995): 74-81; and No. 8 (1995): 56-61. 11
Notably Wada Haruki and Murayama Shichiro. See Wada Haruki, Hopporyodo mondai o kangaeru (Considering the Northern Territories Question] (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1990); Murayama Shichiro, Kuriru shoto no bunkengakuteki kenkyu [Documentological Research on the Kurile Archipelago) (Tokyo: Sanichi Shobo, 1987). 12
The Japanese side rebutted Rogachev's argument at the third Working Group meeting held on 29 April 1989, in Moscow. Although the minutes prepared by the Soviet Foreign Ministry
are not available to me, the Japanese argument was reported in detail in Hopporyodo, No. 234 (20 May 1989). But the coverage in Hopporyodo does not say a word about the Soviet reaction to Kuriyama's presentation.
In addition to the documents translated here, the documents I obtained included other interesting materials from various experts and organizations. I should add, however, that I did not receive position papers prepared by the General Staff and the Pacific Fleet. The General Staff's view was later publicized in a Russian newspaper. See “Glavnyi shtab VMF soglasen s genshtabom,” Nezavisimaia gazeta, 30 July 1992. 14
Cherevko's view in the classified document differs vastly from the view he expressed in an open publication. He and Konstantin Sarkisov were responsible for publishing a hitherto unknown archival document demonstrating that Nicholas I's instruction to the Russian chief negotiator, Artem Putiatin, clearly took the position that Etorofu was under Japan's sovereignty. Konstantin Sarkisov and Kiril Cherevko, “Putiatinu bylo legche provesti granitsu mezhdu Rossiei i laponiei,” Izvestiia, 4 October 1991.
The Last Official Foreign Visit by M.S. Gorbachev as
President of the USSR: The Road to Tokyo!
by A.S. Cherniaev
and more frankly with them. But just as soon as things got to the main point which had frozen our relations for decades, Gorbachev clammed up. For him from the firsthe spoke both to me and in the Politburo about this—the issue of the islands had been resolved. In general terms, the post-war settlement of state borders was considered to be axiomatic. And Gorbachev took this entirely from his predecessors (although with the Japanese islands, the issue was more complicated; the demarcation (of borders) had not been formulated according to international-legal procedure)....
[There follows a discussion of V.I. Dunaev's role in drawing Gorbachev's attention to the Japanese issue.)
ot counting a visit to Spain (already after the
(October 1991) International Conference on the Near East, M.S. (Gorbachev's) visit as head of state to Japan in April 1991 was his last. He had planned to do this throughout almost all the years of perestroika: (Japanese Prime Minister] Nakasone, meeting with him in Moscow in 1985,2 extended an official invitation, which afterwards was confirmed by all of the Japanese political figures with whom M.S. met.
Although at the moment of this visit, Gorbachev had the huge "capital" of his policy of new thinking at his back, it (the trip) turned out to be almost the least effective in a practical sense. Overcoming the “main obstacle” in Soviet-Japanese relations was, so to speak, within arm's reach. But... objective circumstances, as well as subjective ones, prevented this.
But everything (should be told) in order.
I was not yet serving “under Gorbachev” when his first contacts with the Japanese took place—in 1985. Then, after all of his meetings with people from “capitalist countries” came under my supervision, I soon began to note that he was showing definite preference toward the Japanese.
Delegations from Japan continued to arrive, and almost every one of them requested an audience with Gorbachev. I noted that he refused almost none of the Japanese, no matter what their level. And he spoke more
Thereafter, I drew Dunaev into the preparation of the majority of the materials connected with our policy on Japanese affairs. Later, he played a large role in establishing the first contacts between Gorbachev and Roh Taewoo, the President of South Korea.
Beginning in 1986, when I (Cherniaev] became an assistant to Gorbachev, I was present at practically all of his contacts with the Japanese and took notes.
My first impression from his entirely well-wishing conversations with them was not very reassuring. The first two conversations recorded in my notebooks are discussions with one of the leaders of the Japanese Communist party. I do not want to say that Gorbachev in some way
used this channel in order to acquaint himself more indirectly with the Japanese problem and was somehow influenced by the information which he received from the communists. He knew beforehand that this information would not be objective; the CPSU's relations with the Japanese communist party had been poor for decades. The conversations with Fuwa to a significant degree were devoted to clearing up inter-party difficulties. Outside of this framework, a significant part of these conversations was devoted to the struggle against the nuclear threat. Although on this issue too, their positions did not coincide. The anti-American aspect of the problem was very strongly present on both sides.
Of course, Soviet-Japanese relations were also discussed. And Gorbachev genuinely tried to improve them. But, as yet, we had no policy aimed at this end. Therefore an emotional approach predominated which was obviously insufficient to draw a line under the present and begin everything from scratch" (Gorbachev used these words more than once).
He had not yet felt the significance-governmental, political, emotional, traditional, psychological, of every sort—that the Japanese invested in the problem of the islands seized from them by Stalin after their capitulation, after the end of the Second World War. In reality, they had never belonged to Russia. Knowing this, but being driven by the inertia of the Soviet superpower, the very possibility of returning these territories had been ruled out. Sometimes, [Gorbachev] expressed himself quite definitely and sarcastically as to the hopelessness of the Japanese efforts in this regard; at the first meetings he did not even want to discuss this issue, considering the post-war territorial division to be final and irreversible everywhere. He did not recognize the problem itself which supposedly had to be resolved. According to the Gromyko formula, it had been resolved “as a result of the war.” And that was the only explanation for why in actuality the four islands should belong to the Soviet Union, which, as it was said, although big, “had no excess land.” Sometimes he used those words to forestall the efforts of the Japanese interlocutors to begin a discussion. There was a certain (sense of playing a negotiating) game in such a statement of the issue.
The evolution of his views on this score was slow, and took almost five years to complete. I will try to illustrate this evolution with concrete examples, relying on my records of Gorbachev's conversations with figures from the Japanese state and society....
Back in 1985 in his first meeting with Nakasone, who was then prime minister, the issue of a visit by Gorbachev to Japan came up. Afterwards, this theme arose in practically all of his conversations with the Japanese. In reply to the latest invitation to him in the conversation with Fuwa to which I have already referred, M.S. [Gorbachev) said: “I am not being evasive, I think, [in saying that), we must have the widest possible ties with our neighbor Japan along state, party and social lines. All
the more with those who are attached to the cause of strengthening relations with the Soviet Union. You can assume that we are ready to develop relations with Japan. If she [i.e. Japan) does not present us with ultimatums, then there is great potential for that. I would like to ask the question: why is Japan presenting the Soviet Union with an ultimatum, since, after all, we did not lose the war to her?”
To this Fuwa reacted curiously: “I am not Nakasone's deputy." "I will take that under advisement," M.S. countered.
Incidentally, Fuwa demanded of Gorbachev very firmly and insistently in Japanese, using a variety of different approaches, that the CPSU cut off relations with the Socialist Party of Japan, and when doing so always tried to play on the anti-imperialist ideology of the CPSU and to put forward examples proving that the Japanese socialists were actually playing into the hands of American imperialism, not to mention into the hands of (Japan's) own bourgeoisie. But Gorbachev was entirely unmoved by this. He politely explained that the CPSU would henceforward associate with all of Japan's "peace-loving forces” “in the name of their common interests.”
It seems to me that there was something of a turning point in the evolution of Gorbachev's approaches to the Japanese theme in his conversation with the Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of Japan, Doi Takako, on 6 May 1988. A broad review of the entire circle of Soviet-Japanese relations was made. Moreover, I must say, this was done by both sides in the most delicate way, in the most benevolent spirit, with an effort to understand one another, and somehow to get closer to a realistic evaluation of Japan's place in the development of the policy of “new thinking.” Every element was present in the conversation: the emotional, the psychological, and the deeply political. Concisely put, for Gorbachev, his conversation with this very kind, very intelligent, interesting, spiritually rich woman was a sort of turning-point in his understanding of the scale of the Japanese problem as a whole and the difficulty of our relations with this nation, with this state. Of course, Doi also placed emphasis on the fact that Gorbachev should come to Japan, and that this would help resolve everything more easily. She told him that if the Japanese were asked what they wanted from Soviet-Japanese relations, the majority would answer with the question: when will General Secretary Gorbachev come to Japan?
“When the time comes,” Gorbachev answered, provoking general laughter. “I am ready. But is Japan ready?"
Henceforward I will cite what they said according to the stenographic record:
Doi. Japan is ready.
Doi. No, it is ready. Are you hinting that if you were told clearly by the Japanese side that they want a visit from you, you would be ready to go?
Gorbachev. If as a result of that visit we could come out with something concrete.
Doi. Do you have some concrete conditions?
Gorbachev. I have in mind some conditions, but most importantly, there must be an impulse, and not only a symbolic visit. It should really move the relations of the two countries ahead. There is not enough time simply to travel around.
Doi. I understand that. But you talked about Mrs. Thatcher, that you have a sharp dialogue with her, and that you are also conducting a dialogue with other countries. But why is there no dialogue with Japan? Perhaps you think that you can find out about Japanese affairs from the USA?
Gorbachev. No, we do not want to hear about Japanese problems in English translation. To us, Japan is an independent, great figure.
Doi. That has great significance from the point of view of the improvement of relations between the two countries.
Gorbachev. My conversation with you makes the problem of a visit an immediate issue. We will think over the issue. But we need also to know the government's point of view.
Doi. When I return, I will tell the premier about this.
It must be said that, in contrast to the Communist leaders, other Japanese, starting with Doi, were very delicate in their posing of the “key,” the most acute, issue—that of the islands. This word itself was not pronounced in the first conversations; it was covered in the following terms: “a series of unresolved problems,"4 "the 1956 Declaration,” [Ed. note: The 1956 Joint Declaration is discussed at length by Deputy Foreign Ministers Rogachev and Kuriyama below) and so on. Naturally, Doi could not get around this issue and asked Gorbachev what his attitude was to the diplomatic document which was ratified in 1956 and on the basis of which diplomatic relations were restored? He answered verbosely, and this position was then maintained for a long time in different forms.
Gorbachev. First of all, let us come to an understanding that we both agree that it is impossible to approach the existing realities in any other way. The 1956 Declaration was conceived in concrete conditions, in concrete political circumstances. Concrete issues were discussed. But this discussion did not end in an agreement.
Doi. Nevertheless, Paragraph 9 [Trans. Note: Paragraph 9 stated that upon conclusion of a peace treaty between Japan and the USSR, the Habomai and Shikotan Islands would be returned to Japan) was agreed upon and was included in the Declaration.
Gorbachev. I am saying that this was not arrived at through a real process. A lot of time has passed, and all of that remains in history. We have only one thing today: the post-war realities. We must start from that basis.
Doi. On what basis in particular?
Gorbachev. On the basis of the existing post-war realities. What there was in different years has not come to pass, has not been formalized. What is more, this is not our fault. I do not see any need to re-animate issues which have already passed into history. Let us operate on the basis of realities and develop our relations.
Doi. Reality consists of the fact that you consider that the issue has been resolved and does not exist. But we consider that it has not been resolved. That is how we understand reality.
Gorbachev. You are placing in doubt the results of the Second World War. In West Germany there are also such forces. We will consider that this is also a reality. And all the same, there, opinion in favor of abiding by the political results of the Second World War is prevailing.
Doi. But the people's feelings have deep historical roots. Those feelings tell us that those are our lands there, that our ancestors lived there. And these feelings are very strong in Japan.
Gorbachev. We also have nationalistic feeling. The Russians have not forgotten that they discovered the Kuriles. You refer often to the agreements of 1855 and 1875. But, after all, there was the Portsmouth treaty of 1904 [Ed. Note: 1905] after that, which canceled them and made them null and void. As a whole, an approach which does not recognize the post-war realities runs into a deadend.
Doi. But, after all, the 1956 Declaration is also a postwar act.
Gorbachev. But then our points of view did not coincide. Now that is already history. There were efforts, solutions were sought for, but nonetheless things remained as they were after the war.
Doi. But, after all, this Declaration is effectively a (legally) valid document. How can that be considered an issue of history?
Gorbachev. The Japanese side did not take advantage of its opportunity. For that reason, everything returned to the post-war results.”
[Gorbachev met with Nakasone Yasuhiro in Moscow in July 1988.)
Nakasone. I want to state my opinion. You must activate the links between your Pacific regions and the countries of the Japanese sea. Then friendly relations really will develop in the region. Up to six million people from Japan travel to foreign countries every year. But practically no one goes to the Eastern regions of the USSR. Here hotels must be built, some thought must be given to organizing skiing centers, and so on. After all, there are a whole lot of interesting places here. It will be better and much cheaper than going to Canada, which is very popular in Japan.
To this day, Japanese think of Vladivostok as some sort of dangerous military base. Things should be changed so that instead they think about it as an economic and
cultural center, a center of tourism. Then the view of the region as a whole will radically change, and joint enterprises will arise. Famous collectives like the orchestra of the Leningrad Philharmonic and the Bolshoi Theater should perform in Vladivostok. Then Japanese [visitors] will also go there.
Processes in the Soviet Union and the course of perestroika were also “subjected" to fundamental "joint" analysis. Gorbachev frankly and in detail informed Nakasone of his assessment of the situation at that moment. In reply, Nakasone demonstrated a fairly detailed knowledge of events in our country. At the end of the conversation, Nakasone politely, but firmly and concretely, approached the most difficult theme—the "obstacles in Soviet-Japanese relations."
“I want very much to improve them,” said Nakasone. “For that reason, I came to Moscow. First, there is a territorial problem in our relations. When this territorial problem comes up in negotiations, the Soviet side right away gets angry and does not want to discuss it. I think that after 1956, when diplomatic relations were restored, too many statements which were political bluffs were made on both sides. Mr. Gorbachev, you are a jurist who graduated from Moscow University. I am also a jurist and graduate from Tokyo University. Let us talk about these problems cold bloodedly, like jurists."
He set out the history of the islands after the Second World War carefully and in detail, and ended with the following words: we do not think that our northern territories will be returned right away, but it is very important to act on the basis of the existing understandings which were fixed in international agreements between our two countries. That would be a great contribution to the development of relations. I am asking you, Mr. General Secretary, to approach this seriously and study the issue. We must ensure that the feelings of our two peoples in this issue be freed of emotion, and that the problem be resolved calmly.
How did Gorbachev react? His words were: “I can repeat our principled approach. We are interested in good relations with Japan. They must encompass a political dialogue, economic, scientific-technical, and cultural cooperation, and exchanges of people. We are for the broadest ties. In 1985, when I first met you, I also talked about this. What has happened over the three years since? With many countries, our relations have expanded and have become productive. But with Japan, they not only have not moved forward, but have frozen up. And in some ways, they have fallen back. We regret this. You should know that. It seems to us that in Japan an opinion has formed to the effect that the Soviet Union is more interested than Japan in an improvement in relations. I have been informed that the Japanese are concluding: the Soviet Union needs new technology. It will have to come hat in hand to Japan. That is a big mistake. If such an approach lies at the basis of Japanese policy, we will not be able to get anywhere. To one of my Japanese interlocutors I said:
We did not lose the war to you, but you are trying to dictate (terms] to us. A sort of stalemate has appeared in our relations.” And [he] continued: “We approach the post-war realities differently, and assess them differently. But they are what they are. They are based on the outcome of the war, and have been consolidated in documents. Japanese representatives, when they speak about Soviet-Japanese relations, begin with 1956. But they should begin with the post-war situation. Then 1956 also looks different.
Then, in the context of that period, in order to restore relations with Japan, to normalize them, the Soviet Union decided to make a noble step—to give away two islands. [Ed. note: According to the Russian scholar and former diplomat S. Tikhvinskii (Problemy dal'nego vostoka, 45(1995)), but as yet uncorroborated by documentation, the offer was made on 9 August 1955, the tenth anniversary of the Nagasaki atomic attack.) This was good will on the part of the Soviet Union. But from Japan's side, a demand was immediately made for four islands. And it all came to nothing, although diplomatic relations were re-established in 1956. Japan embarked on a rapprochement with the US. The presence of the US in this region grew and took on its current dimensions. That required the Soviet Union to take steps in response."
Further discussion between Gorbachev and Nakasone at that time came to nothing; they were both working from fixed positions; each considered himself in the right, and they really did assess the realities (of the situation] differently.
Nakasone recalled that when he was prime minister, he had invited Gorbachev to visit Japan, and Gorbachev had received [the invitation) with satisfaction. Now he, Nakasone, was confirming the invitation on behalf of all Japan.
On 5 May 1989, Gorbachev met with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, Uno Sosuke. At the beginning of the conversation, he immediately observed that since beginning his work as General Secretary, he, Gorbachev, had met with prominent Japanese ten times. But progress in relations was not very noticeable; relations with other countries were outstripping what the USSR had with Japan both in dynamism and in scale.
Gorbachev and Uno positively assessed the official dialogue at the level of the ministers of foreign affairs which had begun in December 1988. Uno also affirmed the invitation to Gorbachev to visit Japan. And he handed him “five points" on which the Japanese side considered it desirable to develop the dialogue:
To continue work on the conclusion of a peace treaty.
Uno informed Gorbachev that, in his discussion with Shevardnadze the day before, he had again announced on