By Kosuke Takahashi, Asia Times.com:
TOKYO – Spooked by China’s persistent assertiveness in confronting its Asian neighbors at sea, Japan and Russia are beginning to seek rapprochement to promote cooperation on security and economics in East Asia.
Despite little progress on a decades-old territorial dispute, the two nations aim to achieve closer military cooperation to counter China’s naval expansion. They are also accelerating bilateral moves to strengthen ties based on economic and energy pragmatism.
There is no shortage of anecdotes and events about this warming of bilateral relations between Japan and Russia. Most recently, General Shigeru Isawaki, head of the Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF), visited his Russian counterpart Nikolai Makarov in Moscow on June 27. The two nations’ top military officials shared the view that bilateral defense cooperation was good for stability in the Asia-Pacific region and agreed to continue cooperation in providing safe navigation.
The following day, the Japanese military delegation led by Iwasaki visited a motorized infantry brigade and a military pilot-training center near Moscow. His trip to Russia is the first in four years for a chief of the JSDF Joint Staff.
“The territorial dispute will go nowhere for the time being,” Akihiro Iwashita, a professor of the Slavic Research Center at Hokkaido University in Japan, told Asia Times Online. “While shelving the territorial dispute, the two nations will likely enhance cooperation pragmatically.”