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Counselor Jiro Kodera

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests: I am very happy and honored to address such a distinguished forum. Let me just tell you my background before going into my topic. I served in Moscow twice since joining the Foreign Ministry for a total of six and a half years. Now I work at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, DC, and I am in charge of Japan-U.S. relations, and also Japan-Russian relations, focusing on the political side.

Today, I will compare Japan's relations with the United States and Russia, because this will shed light on the current situations and problems between Japan and Russia. As you know, the Portsmouth Peace Treaty, which brought; an end to the Japan-Russo War, was concluded here in 1905. President Roosevelt mediated and was presented with the Nobel Peace Prize for this effort. Personally, I praise President Roosevelt's initiative and I am pleased that peace was established.

However, at the time, the Japanese people did not appreciate the treaty. Having won the war, they thought they were not getting adequate reparations from Russia. The mass media began criticizing the Japanese government. Demonstrators clashed with the police, and these mobs destroyed over two hundred institutions, including police stations. The Army had to be called in to put down the mob. The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo was also attacked. I am not illustrating how barbarous the Japanese were at that time, or how ungrateful we were toward the U.S., which had gone out its way to mediate the situation. I cite this example because I think we can learn the following important lesson. The Japanese reaction towards the Portsmouth Treaty was caused by their ignorance of the war situation. In diplomacy, appropriate information that is inevitable in judging the situation needs to be shared by the people. In other words, people need to be given appropriate information so that they can reach a correct judgment. Another aspect of this lesson is that it is very difficult to carry out diplomacy that is far apart from public sentiment. President Clinton worries about the polls, but now you see that diplomats also worry about public opinion polls.

Now 1 will explain the general public's view toward the U.S. and Russia. The mass media is lopsided in their reporting of Japan-U.S. relations, focusing on the trade issues, and indeed there are conflicts in the area of trade. But I don't think that bilateral relations are in bad shape. I also take an optimistic view of the long-term relations between Japan and the U.S. I say this because the Japanese view of the U.S. is very positive. Probably much more so than you might think. Any opinion poll in Japan lists the U.S. as the best liked country, and the most trusted country. Also, most Japanese list the U.S. as the country they would most like to visit as a tourist, or to spend time as a student. Unless something extraordinary happens, this is unlikely to change in the future.

As for myself, I wanted to study in your country during my high school days. I took the American Field Service test for the exchange program, which was very competitive. Although I passed the test, I couldn't make it because of family illness. This was unfortunate, because if I had studied then, I would not have suffered preparing this speech in English. The U.S. is also the most popular country among our diplomats when they study abroad. I also listed the U.S. as my first choice, but was ordered to study Russian in London and Moscow.

Simply put, Japanese sentiment towards the U.S. is very favorable because of that enormous influence after World War II. Most Japanese accepted the American influence positively, especially the generous help that the U.S. rendered Japan to promote her democracy and rebuild the economy. My generation remembers drinking skimmed milk during our school lunch, which was provided by the U.S. This is an experience we can never forget, not just `because we are grateful, but also because the skimmed milk tasted so awful!

Culturally, the two countries differ a great deal, but our mass cultures are converging. McDonalds can be spotted all over Japan. The McDonalds with the world's largest sales is located in Ginza, Japan. There is also Tokyo Disneyland. Children in Japan are growing up with McDonalds and Disney characters. Nowadays, when young Japanese visit the States, they are fascinated to find McDonalds, and they say "You make makudonaludo too", believing McDonalds to be Japanese.

For most Japanese, anything foreign implies the U.S. The foreign language is English. When my family traveled to Kagoshima, in the southern part of Japan, a year ago, a woman in a small shop said to my son, "Since you live in Moscow, you must speak English." To this day, we haven't figured out whether she thought Moscow was part of the U.S., or she thought the official language in Russia was English.

Unfortunately, the American view toward Japan is probably less favorable. Americans seem to recognize the importance of the economical relations, and over half the respondents in a recent poll fisted Japan as the most important nation for the U.S. economy. On he other hand, when it comes to friendship, even in 1990, before he fall of the Soviet Union, 59% of Americans felt a sense of friendship toward the Soviet Union; whereas only 52 % felt the same way towards Japan. To be honest, I was disappointed with these figures, because more Americans felt friendly towards the USSR under the communists, rather than Japan. Opinion polls also show that many Americans think that Japan is unfair. The American view of Japan fluctuates violently, whereas the Japanese constantly take a stable, favorable view of the U.S. I think we are to blame in some aspects, but a lot is based on lack of information and on misunderstanding.

In this connection, I would like to remind you of the following four points, so that there will be no misunderstanding. First, Japan is the second biggest importer of American goods, only after Canada. Its imports from the U.S. are even bigger than that of the U.K. and Italy combined. Second, Japan is the biggest importer of American agricultural products: 20% of the U.S. export of agricultural products goes to Japan, whereas total exports to all the EC countries combined amounts to 17%. Third, the amount of per capita import of Japan is bigger than that of the U.S. Forth, Japan spends about $5 billion a year for the American forces stationed in Japan, and is going to increase the amount even further. I believe that nowhere else in the world do the American forces receive such favorable treatment regarding host-nation support.

In any event, we should not criticize each other on the basis of misunderstandings or lack of information. That would just serve to create unnecessary strains in Japan-U.S. relations. If we can avoid doing that, then I am sure that the differences in economic and trade issues can be solved as a technical matter without affecting good relations between the two countries. We have a great asset in the form of the extremely good attitude the Japanese have towards Americans. In this respect, I think Japan-U.S. relations are destined to be close and beneficial to both countries.

Japan-Russia relations are completely different. In any opinion poll in Japan, Russia is near the bottom of the list of "most beloved country." The average Japanese person holds the image of Russia as "frightening and not trustworthy." As I have informed you, I have studied Russian and lived in Russia almost seven years, and consider Russia my second home. I sincerely wish to do whatever I can towards promoting Russia-Japan relations. For people like myself, the result of the previously discussed opinion poll is always depressing, but there is no denying the truth, and the truth cannot be neglected. There is a huge difference when comparing Japan's attitude towards the U.S. versus the attitude towards Russia. These differences certainly cast a shadow over our relations with Russia.

The Japanese have great admiration and love for Russian literature; also nineteenth and early twentieth century Russian art. It is extremely difficult to find a Japanese who has never read Tolstoy, Dostoevski, or Chekhov, and has not been moved by their works. Russian folk songs are also quite popular in Japan, especially among students. Recently, we have witnessed a growing interest and respect for Russian movies; not only Mikarkov and Tarasovsky, but also other directors of post-perestroika are highly appreciated in Japan. Japanese look for thrills, speed, and joy in American films, for example "Jurassic Park" or "True Lies", but look for the meaning of life or destiny in Russian films. Russian soul, as they call it, is unquestionably very appealing to the Japanese. I must add that we Japanese also appreciate, very much, the fact that Russians have an in-depth ability to understand our traditional art.

Then, you may wonder why the image of Russia is so bad in Japan. In Japan people often say, "I like Russians but dislike the Soviet Union." It means that most Japanese have a favorable view of the Russians, but could not come to like the Soviet Union as a nation. In my strictly personal opinion, there are three reasons for this. First, 1 must say that the Japanese still remember that the Soviet Union attacked Japan coward the end of World War II, in spite of the non-aggression treaty between Japan and the Soviet Union; and what's more, the Soviet Union attacked the islands off Hokkaido and occupied them even after Japan declared its intention to surrender. This is the root of the Northern Territory issue, and there still does not exist a peace treaty between the two countries, since the territorial issue has not been solved. Second, at the end of World War 11, in Manchuria, about 600,000 Japanese were taken hostage and taken to Siberia, where they were imprisoned in hard labor camps. Some were kept there for as long as eleven years, and during that time, about 60,000 among them died in the camps. Six hundred thousand is a huge number, and it is no exaggeration to say that many Japanese have known someone who had been taken hostage, within their family. Third, policy towards Japan, including that of the territorial issue, under the former Soviet Union, is also a factor to remember. As Professor Perry, mentioned earlier, in 1956 Japan and the former Soviet Union concluded the joint declaration; thus we legally ended the state of war and restored diplomatic relations. This document was ratified by the Parliaments of both countries and constitutes a valid international law. However, in 1960, when Japan revised the security treaty with the U.S., the former Soviet Union unilaterally declared that the article in the joint declaration relating to the territorial issue was no longer applicable, and has since then denied the existence of the dispute and has refused to discussed the matter.

These points are somewhat inter-related and reinforce the already existing image of the Soviet Union. Had the former Soviet Union been able to present itself to the Japanese as generous as the Americans were able to do, they might have been able to wipe out all the bad memories of the past, but unfortunately, the former Soviet Union failed to do so until now.

However, there are good signs. Generally speaking, the Russians hold a favorable view of Japan. The old Communist regime has gone in Russia. The newly formed Russian Federation is now undergoing tremendous changes to transform its society to democracy with a market economy. I think we should take advantage of this opportunity to promote mutual understanding on a people-to-people basis so that eventually we can build mutual trust in our relations.

Fifteen years ago, when I started to work at the Japanese Embassy in Moscow, Mr. Takashima came to Moscow as the new Ambassador. He was taken hostage at the end of World War II and taken to a labor camp in Siberia. During his internment, he lost his right leg due to frostbite. He was often asked why he had accepted the position of Ambassador to the Soviet Union, a country where he spent almost three years in a labor camp, and why he did not take an easier post. His answer was simple. "Because of that experience and because of that memory, I want to do what I can to promote relations between the two countries." I think people who are in charge of bilateral relations should keep his words in mind.

Now, let me turn to the present status of the relationship between Japan and Russia. The Japanese government attaches great importance to their relations with Russia. One of their major foreign policy goals is to establish good neighborly relations with Russia based on true mutual understanding, and to that end, we consider it necessary to conclude a peace treaty with Russia by resolving the Northern Territory issue.

At the same time, the Japanese government recognizes the historic importance of Russia's endeavor to transform its society to democracy by opening up a free market economy. And Japan has been extending as much help as it can to Russia in cooperation with the U.S. and other western countries. You may recall the initiatives by the Japanese government to make up a joint package for economic assistance to Russia at the Tokyo Summit last year. It is well known that these initiatives by the Japanese government were highly appreciated by Russia and many other countries. Apart from multilateral assistance, Japan has so far pledged an additional $4.6 billion. It is important to note that this amount is the third largest among G7 countries after Germany and the U.S. Contrary to what some people feel, Japan is not reluctant to render assistance to Russia because of the Northern Territory issue. That concept is clearly invalid. I have also heard some people saying that economic relations between Japan and Russia have not made progress because of the Northern Territory issue. This, too, is, I think, inaccurate. The fact is, trade between Japan and Russia is still larger than that of trade between the U.S. and Russia, although trade between the U.S. and Russia has grown about five tunes over the last two years. That means until two years ago the trade between those two countries was less than one-fifth of the trade between Japan and Russia.

It's certainly true that trade between Japan and Russia has been stagnating. I was informed by a person who is actually engaged in trading with Russia that the main reason is because the debt problem has not been solved. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, many Japanese companies had conducted business with the Soviet trading corporations. Those trading corporations were under certain economic ministries which strictly controlled them. Vast amounts of money were owed to Japanese companies when the Soviet Union collapsed. Japanese companies have not resolved this debt issue yet, and are now trying to settle the matter with their successor organizations. The Russian side maintains that since those trading corporations were under the Soviet system and have been privatized, they do not exist anymore. Therefore, neither individual privatized companies nor the Russian government should assume the debt. Hence, the problem simply ceases to exist. However, the Japanese side argues that trading companies under the Soviet system were part of a certain economic ministry; therefore, their debt should be borne by either the individual successor company or by the Russian government. The Japanese companies are not requesting the prompt payment of debt, for they understand the difficulties that the Russians now face economically. But as a matter of principle, they cannot accept the Russian argument. The Japanese companies would like to receive, at least, an official recognition by the Russian government that the debt exists. I'm told that so long as Russia continues to deny the debt problem, it is extremely difficult for any Japanese company involved in this matter to get approval within their company to carry out new business with Russia. Naturally, because of the distrust factor, they fear that the same debt problems could be repeated.

I have just explained one reason why trade between Japan and Russia has not been expanding. There are other reasons as well, such as the ambiguity of power distribution between the center and the locals, (Japan is particularly sensitive to this problem because we mainly deal with the Far Eastern region of Russia) and the tax system and the increase in organized crime. These are all economic factors, not political ones. If Japanese-Russian relations in the economic field are not going smoothly, it is due to economic problems, not to political ones.

I would now like to briefly touch upon the political dialogue between Japan and Russia. President Yeltsin finally paid an official visit to Japan last October. President Yeltsin and then Prime Minister Hosokawa succeeded in laying the foundation for the promotion of bilateral relations by signing the "Tokyo Declaration." On the basis of the Tokyo declaration, Mr. Hata, the then Foreign Minister of Japan, visited Russia last March and had lengthy discussions with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Kozrev. In the course of these meetings, the Japanese side announced the exchange program to raise the level of human contact, and thus to enhance mutual understanding, such as the program of inviting Russian parliamentarians to Japan and the youth exchange program. The Japanese side also took steps to promote the understanding of the Japanese system of management and announced its intentions to establish a center for studying this subject, both in Moscow and in the Far Eastern region of Russia. On September 29, 1994, the Foreign Minister of Japan, Mr. Kono, met with the Foreign Minister of Russia in New York. As a result of the meeting, both sides agreed on the following three points. First, the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia will visit Japan towards the end of November. Second, the Peace Treaty Working Group and Vice Ministerial level meetings will be held in Tokyo at the beginning of December. Third, both sides will endeavor to realize the Russian Foreign Minister's visit to Japan in December, or January 1995. The Japanese side has made its intentions very clear, that it will pursue a balanced expansion of relations with Russia through these dialogues.

I have briefly touched upon the present status and problems of Japan-Russia relations, especially in comparison with Japan-U.S. relations. In summary, I hope the following message has been conveyed to you. First, unlike Japan-U.S. relations, we have several unfavorable factors for the promotion of Japan-Russia relations. Despite these factors, Japan formulates its policy toward Russia, which is similar to the policy of other Western countries including the U.S. Second, Japan-Russia relations exert much influence both on Japan-U.S. relations and U.S.-Russia relations. The improvement of Japan-Russia relations would benefit not only Japan and Russia, but also the U.S.

I would like to conclude my speech by wishing you all the best, and great success for this wonderful forum.

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For a Russian-language description of the Treaty exhibit click here.

For the Russian-language Library of Congress description of the Treaty of Portsmouth, click here.


 News and Links

To learn nore, the following books are available:

Heroes & Friends: Behind the Scenes of the Treaty of Portsmouth by Michiko Nakanishi

There Are No Victors Here: A Local Perspective on the Treaty of Portsmouth by Peter E. Randall

Also available:

An Uncommon Commitment to Peace Exhibit Catalogue published by the Japan-America Society of NH

Blessed Are the Peacemakers: The Service of Thanksgiving for the Portsmouth Treaty, September 5, 1905 by Marina Grot Turkevich Naumann

Original 1905 newsreel footage on DVD

Treaty of Portsmouth 1905-2005 book of reproduction historical postcards.

The Portsmouth Peace Process: Guide for Teachers by Northeast Cultural Coop

Portsmouth Peace Treaty Trail

For hours, directions, details on the Portsmouth Historical Society museum where the Portsmouth Peace Treaty exhibit is displayed, click here.

For hours, directions, details on Strawbery Banke Museum and the Shapiro House, owned by one of the founders of Temple Israel who figured in the Treaty citizen diplomacy, click here.

For information about Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Building 86 where the formal negotiations were held. click here.

For more information about Wentworth By the Sea Hotel, where both delegations stayed, click here.

For more information about Green Acre Bahai School and Sarah Farmer's commitment to the peace process, click here.

The Portsmouth Public Library maintains an micorfilm archive of local newspapers and an index of the relevant Treaty reporting and other related materials. The archive of original newspapers, photographs and other documents is maintained by the Portsmouth Athenaeum.



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