Editorial: Japan should work with Russia to solve territorial dispute as Putin becomes president
Japan should seek a breakthrough in its deadlocked territorial dispute with Russia by strengthening its relations with the new administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
（プーチン新政権との関係強化で行き詰まっている北方領土問題も解決して欲しい trans. by srachai ）
Putin, former prime minister, has been sworn in as president again and appointed his predecessor Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister, whose role is to handle domestic affairs.
In other words, the two swapped their positions, and Putin, who had been the second-in-command in the Russian government under the Constitution, has become the top leader again and is expected to show his strong leadership in governing the country.
However, the second Putin administration, which follows his first administration from 2000 to 2008, faces a thorny path.
More than 20,000 citizens gathered for a demonstration in Moscow on May 6 to express their opposition to Putin's return to the presidency, and some of them clashed with police, leading to the arrests of over 400 people.
Massive demonstrations against Putin, which had continued since a lower house election in December last year, did not cause major confusion.
This time, however, some participants went off the designated course during their demonstration march and security authorities suppressed them.
It is certain that such confusion and disturbance will continue to occur frequently unless the government changes its autocratic nature, which is represented by its lack of a system to respond to the public's dissatisfaction.
One cannot help but wonder whether Putin is serious about strengthening Russia's democracy as he pledged in his inaugural address.
He should be aware that the international community as a whole is worried about Russia's democracy.
On the diplomatic front, concerns have been voiced over whether Putin will revive the hard line that he had adopted when he was president from 2000 and 2008.
He has so far shown no sign of responding to U.S. President Barack Obama's proposal to launch negotiations toward further arms reductions.
Moreover, he reportedly has no intention of attending the Group of Eight summit meeting to be held in the United States in May.
Putin is highly likely to make his diplomatic debut since he assumed the presidency again at a summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
In September, he will host a summit meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum to be held in Vladivostok, which will be the first such conference to be held in Russia.
These show that Putin places priority on strengthening Russia's relations with Asian countries.
In the first presidential decree he issued following his inauguration, Putin cited the promotion of reciprocal cooperation with Japan as one of his key policies.
However, Putin's inauguration as president has drawn mixed reactions in Japan, with some placing high expectations on his policy of attaching importance to Russia's ties with Asian countries and others warning against optimism because Moscow's demand for compromise from Japan over the bilateral territorial dispute remains unchanged.
These two views appear to conflict with each other, but both are right.
Behind Putin's policy of attaching importance to Russia's ties with Asia is his hard-headed strategy of using Asia's economic dynamism, including Japan's advanced technology, to develop the country's Far Eastern region and modernize the country's economy.
Japan should position its diplomacy toward Russia, including its economic cooperation, as a pillar of its overall national strategy and deepen its relations with Russia's new administration in an effort to seek a breakthrough in the territorial dispute.
毎日新聞 2012年05月11日 02時30分