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Opinion – Shinzō Abe and Russo-Japanese Relations

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For more than 70 years have the contemporary Russo-Japanese relations been stalemated by the territorial dispute over the Kurile islands. The period starting from late 2012, however, has been marked by an unusually high level of Japanese diplomatic activity, which aims at finding new solutions to the dispute. As Japanese prime-minister, Shinzō Abe, came back from Vladivostok after yet another meeting with the Russian leadership, questions about the prospect of a political settlement arose once again. Will Tokyo adjust its negotiation approach? This article looks into how the most recent political developments in Japan and abroad stimulate Japan’s leadership to push harder for a compromise. It also elaborates on why Moscow should also adopt a more flexible approach in dealing with Tokyo in the upcoming years.

Even though Abe receives a lot of criticism as one of the most right-wing prime-ministers Japan had since 1945, one cannot deny that he is, by all means, a unique Japanese politician. Unlike many of his predecessors, he managed to remain in power for almost 7 years, which allowed him to conduct consistent policies both domestically and internationally. His resolve to leave a serious political legacy and guarantee a place for himself in history textbooks will not be satisfied by merely receiving the title of the longest-serving prime-minister in Japan’s history. His yearning for political achievements is what explains Abe’s appetite for big-scale projects at home and abroad.

Ranging from the introduction of Abenomics to promotion of the constitutional revision project, from negotiating the free trade agreement with the EU to solving the abductee issues with Pyongyang, Abe launched one big initiative after another, thus, successfully establishing himself as a dominant figure on Japan’s political scene. As the prime-minister tirelessly repeated, signing a........

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