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August 10, 1988

Ichiro Suetsugu, Secretary General, Council on National Security Problems, 'Results of Nakasone-Gorbachev Meeting and Future Issues: Putting the Northern Territories Issue at the Center'

August 10, 1988


Results of Nakasone-Gorbachev Meeting and Future Issues


– Putting the Northern Territories Issue at the Center –


Ichiro Suetsugu, Secretary General, Council on National Security Problems


Nakasone’s Meaningful Visit to the Soviet Union


This is a terribly rude way of saying it but, in regard to former Prime Minister Nakasone’s recent visit to Moscow, honestly, I was on the edge of my seat until the end. That was due to my thinking that something unexpected would have to spring forth, from one side or the other, particularly through the meeting with General Secretary Gorbachev.


However, it ended with the former Prime Minister, as one would expect, having carried a dignified attitude throughout two hours and 40 minutes of talks with the General Secretary. The discussion ranged broadly over the general state of international affairs, the present state of and prospects for perestroika (restructuring and reform), the Asia-Pacific issue, and the Japan-Soviet relationship. Concerning the Northern Territories issue, the subject of particular attention, the former Prime Minister made a frontal strike at the root of the problem and squarely asserted Japan’s argument. Of course, the General Secretary answered this from the Soviet position, but I suspect that this exchange left him with a rather strong impression.


There was some media reporting that this was the first time for General Secretary Gorbachev to personally discuss the Northern Territories issue, but that is not correct.


At the end of May, the year before last, (then) Foreign Minister Abe, who had visited Moscow for the Foreign Ministers’ Regular Talks following the visit to Japan in January that year of Foreign Minister Shevardnadze, paid a courtesy call on the General Secretary on arriving at the Kremlin. On that occasion, naturally, the Foreign Minister strongly proposed the “wish to start negotiations in order to resolve the Northern Territories issue and conclude a peace treaty.”


At that time, Gorbachev did not escape like Brezhnev in saying “the problem does not exist.” He answered with “the inviolability of postwar borders” and “the Helsinki Agreement was concluded based on that.” This time, too, he basically did not taken a single step from his position then.


However, that time it was paying respects; this time, it was talks. Former Prime Minister Nakasone, touching on the root, that “The Northern Territories issue started as Stalin’s mistake,” pressed in a solid and sharp way. How did he take the substance of these talks? How will he respond to them? All of this is a future issue. Whatever his response then and there, one cannot deny that General Secretary Gorbachev, who is starting to put together a new strategy for the Asia-Pacific, and in particular a strategy for Japan, must have received a rather strong impression.


By the way, several months ago, when talk began to emerge of Prime Minister Nakasone visiting Moscow, thinking that the time was not ripe, I frankly said so.

It was my intuition as someone who had been grappling with such issues for many years that, in undertaking the issue of Okinawa’s reversion to the Fatherland and accomplishing it, next would be the Northern Territories issue, the final one in our postwar settlement.


Also, considering it necessary to provide a place for frank dialogue, even if positions differed, I organized one with various influential scholars and academics of Japan and the Soviet Union.  There has also been a “reading” gained from the position of white-hot discussions over the course of meeting 10 times.


We were reading the situation as, “The Soviet Union’s Japan strategy is not yet settled. It will be from this point forward.” We were uneasy that there would be trouble if the former Prime Minister came marching in now and, eager for glory as a politician, threw some strange curve ball. Also, in the back of my mind, I kept thinking about Ichiro Kono at the time of the Hatoyama Cabinet.


However, things went positively. The Soviet Union agreed to the three terms that the former Prime Minister set: (1) He wished to have in-depth discussion with General Secretary Gorbachev on the Northern Territories issue; (2) He wished to give a speech to Soviet specialists in international strategy and diplomatic policy; (3) He wished speak on television, without any cuts, to the Soviet people.


When that happened, it would have been wrong for us to criticize, to stand on the sidelines or such. I will not write here about the details, but we decided to express strongly our hope that he “not use any tricks but make a bold frontal attack” and a number of other things.


In such circumstances, we were uncommonly anxious about how things would go in Moscow.


In view of the times, the press, television, and such reported extensively on the progress of events. On top of that, the former Prime Minister himself is well known for giving interviews, expanding on his remarks and speaking to the point of talking too much.


However, we wished to arrange a series of developments in order to consider future measures and wished to delve into the significance of the dialogue this time, future issues, and such, centering in particular on the Northern Territories issue.


Resounding Lecture Hall


Former Prime Minister Nakasone on his visit to the Soviet Union took care of a number of ceremonial events, visited churches, traveled to the Lithuanian republic on the coast of the Baltic Sea, and such, but the visit’s highlights were his talks with General Secretary Gorbachev, his speech to experts, and his appearance on television.


The speech on the morning of the 21st had the significance of an opening move in advance of his talks with the General Secretary, scheduled for the following day, so let us examine first the contents of that speech.


The speech took place on the morning of the 21st, given at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), which is located a little outside of Moscow, and which ran for approximately one hour.


The speech, whose title was “Towards a New International Community,” started with the following opening: “More than 70 years after the Russian Revolution, in the midst of great global change in advance of the 21st century, what kind of problems is Soviet society facing? Also, how are the Soviet people addressing them? I came here wishing to learn at first hand.”


First, the former Prime Minister, touching on the “spirit of the times” that from time to time has flowed in mankind’s history over the past millennium, he made an appeal that a new spirit of our times was required with the passage from the Industrial Revolution through the revolution in science and technology.


Next, he brought up East-West relations after the Second World War. Raising the conflict between the East’s Stalinism and expansionism and the West’s policy of containment as a factor of tension in the flow of East-West relations interwoven with conflict and cooperation, he praised Gorbachev’s efforts at reform and expressed his hope for them.


Then, touching on the East-West relations going forward, he also made an appeal that, along with further deepening and expanding the results of dialogue and negotiation obtained to date, for the future, “We should aim for a global reconciliation and the normalization of a new East-West relationship based on new principles and systems.”


Next, mentioning Asia, he brought up Gorbachev’s Vladivostok speech of two years ago. Touching on its concept of an Asia-Pacific Conference not having received an entirely favorable response in the region, the former Prime Minister pointed out that the reason was an absence of relations of trust with the Soviet Union necessary to consider such a proposal. Accordingly, he brought up prerequisites for settling the problems at the source of this region’s political conflicts: “the resolution of the Northern Territories issue,” “the easing of tension on the Korean Peninsula,” and “the political resolution of the Cambodia issue.”


Lastly, bringing up the relationship between Japan and the Soviet Union, while saying that “Japan attaches great importance to its relations with its important neighbor” and that between both countries “relations are developing in various fields of practical relations,” he said that its development potential was not being fully utilized. He pointed out that the reason for this was “the situation where the basis for both countries – the resolution of the Northern Territories issue and the conclusion of a peace treaty – was still not correctly established.”


This speech, which started with with historical and philosophical arguments and, after having praised the Soviet Union’s present efforts at political reform and spoken of the efforts in the direction of the future of East-West relations, lastly raised the relationship between the two countries and squarely suggested the issue of the Northern Territories as the fundamental issue preventing relations from improving. The speech made an extremely strong impression on the approximately 120 specialists, in attendance from IMEMO and elsewhere, who filled the hall.


Furthermore, it is said that there was a resounding clamor in the hall when, in response to the first question – “Is there not anything other than the Northern Territories issue impeding Japan-Soviet relations from moving forward?” – former Prime Minister Nakasone flatly said “no” and added, “The Northern Territories issue began with Stalin’s mistakenly putting the Soviet military on islands belonging to Hokkaido.”


The thoughts of those Soviet academics in the hall at that time were sent to me, but it seems that bold criticism by a foreigner made a strong impression on the audience.


Dr. Primakov, the president of IMEMO, speaking as the host after the speech, concluded with words of praise for it: “It was very meaningful for presenting issues from a wide angle and promoting mutual understanding.” I think, knowing him well, that his praise was neither pro forma nor cynical. I think that he said directly what he thought.


Thus, one can say that the speech concluded successfully and that it fully achieved its goal.


There Was White-Hot Discussion


The meeting between former Prime Minister Nakasone and General Secretary Gorbachev took place for approximately two hours and 40 minutes on the following morning of the 22nd in the General Secretary’s office in the Kremlin. Even deducting the time spent interpreting, the meeting was good enough.


In March 1985, at the funeral of former General Secretary Chernenko, it was General Secretary Gorbachev, who had promptly assumed office, who greeted (then) Prime Minister Nakasone, so it was their second meeting after three years and four months.


The General Secretary in his greeting pressed him: “I had been wanting to have a meeting with you but did not make it happen. Did you not want one? Was the fault on the Soviet side?” The meeting was enveloped in tension from the start.


The meeting neither proceeded in order of an agenda determined in advance, nor was it a dialogue of question and answer. In broad outline, there were discussed such issues as the perception of the present state of international relations and their future prospects; issues in the Soviet Union’s perestroika and its future prospects; issues involving the Asia-Pacific; and, lastly, the Japan-Soviet relationship, centered on the Northern Territories issue.


Concerning the substance of their discussions, they have already been taken up in many media reports. On top of that, the former Prime Minister himself has given many newspaper and television interviews, adding supplementary details and talking at length (to the point of saying little too much, I think), so there is no need to record it again here.


However, concerning the part about the Japan-Soviet relationship, centered on the Northern Territories issue, because it is deeply involved with how our response should be from this point forward, I arranged the necessary parts as accurately as possible and, in order to make them as easy to understand as possible, in a question-and-answer style.

Nakasone: I have come to the Soviet Union in the hope of improving the Japan-Soviet relationship. The Soviet side dislikes having the Northern Territories issue brought up, but the territorial issue has been poorly handled to this day. We both have a bachelor’s degree in law, so I would like to consider the issue from the basis of the postwar Japan-Soviet relationship. Its starting point is the Joint Declaration. Along with this there are also the Matsumoto-Gromyko letters. The two countries thereby restored diplomatic relations and, with the cooperation of the Soviet Union, Japan joined the United Nations. The Joint Declaration was signed by Prime Minister Hatoyama and Premier Bulganin on October 19, 1956. The Matsumoto-Gromyko letters were exchanged on September 29. They stipulated  that our two countries, after the restoration of diplomatic relations, would conduct negotiations for a peace treaty, including the territorial issue.


In 1960, however, when Japan revised the Japan-US Security Treaty, the Soviet Union sent a memorandum rejecting the content of the Joint Declaration, even though the content of the revised security treaty was good both for Japan and for the Soviet Union. This happened even though the Joint Declaration is an international treaty that both countries ratified. After that, then, efforts were made at the meeting between Tanaka and Brezhnev (1973) to go back to the Joint Declaration.


Gorbachev: In principle, there is no change in our position of desiring to improve the Soviet-Japan relationship. I am thinking broadly of invigorating the political dialogue with Japan, of economic, cultural, and scientific and technological exchanges, and such.


I think that I said the same thing in meeting you two years ago. Since then, even though relations between the Soviet Union and many countries have expanded, with Japan there are still fields that are stuck in place and in an unfavorable condition.


Our impression is that it is the Soviet Union, more than Japan, that strongly desires improved relations. There has been reporting that the Japanese think that the Soviet side, wanting new technologies, will come with its head bowed, but that is a big mistake.


Mr. Nakasone, you started from 1956, but we should start from the postwar realities. If we do so, then the aspect of 1956 was different.  The Soviet Union offered to return two islands as a compromise for the sake of normalization. It was an opportunity. However, Japan asked for the return of four islands.


Various things have been said between the Soviet Union and Japan on this issue, but this is an issue of principle, that of the inviolability of postwar borders. If we took out a map from 1940 and made things as they were at that time, we would have to remake the world. There are various issues intertwined here. Even so, in Europe the Helsinki Accords came into being. Why? That is because if we were to cast doubt on the results of the Second World War, then everything would collapse. The Soviet Union does not forget having sacrificed 20 million lives.


In 1960, Japan suddenly drew close to the United States. After that, the United States expanded their presence in the relevant area.


Nakasone: Speaking of postwar realities, they have differed greatly in Europe and Asia. The United States returned Okinawa, where they sacrificed over 100,000 lives, to Japan. Stalin made a mistake and sent troops onto islands of ours that belong to Hokkaido. That the four islands belong to Hokkaido is clearly stipulated in the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between Japan and Russia and in the Treaty for the Exchange of Sakhalin for the Kurile Islands. The Soviet military, proceeding south from the Kurile Islands, stopped short of the four islands. Realizing that neither American nor Japanese forces were there, however, the Soviet force then invaded them. The 1956 Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration is an international treaty. We should strictly decide our position on this basis. The 1960 memorandum is not an international treaty. It is nothing more than a more unilateral notification.


I do not expect the immediate return of the territories. However, having restored relations with international agreements and documents, we should return to this starting point. Doing so would contribute to the normalization of relations between our two countries.


Foreign Minister Shevardnadze’s visit to Japan has been agreed to by communique. Could we not have you issue instructions for the visit to Japan this year?


Gorbachev: I understand. I shall issue instructions. For this year.


Nakasone: I invited you, General Secretary, in my time in office to visit, and you accepted. I would like you to realize this visit as soon as possible. If not, then it will be taken as a step backwards in the Japan-Soviet relationship. That would be too bad.


Gorbachev: I accept. I, too, would not wish to give such an impression.


The visit is ready to be realized. However, a visit making its starting point the present situation may worsen relations rather than improve the situation. I would not want that. I do not know what to do. Together, we must consider once again what to do.


The above is a record of the exchange on Japan-Soviet relations and the Northern Territories issue. Even when arranged this way, the record conveys an atmosphere of white-hot discussion.


If We Were To Appraise the Results


Here, together with making a general appraisal of the results of Nakasone’s visit to the Soviet Union, we must accurately expose the problems visible there.


Naturally, it must include the contents of the talks between the two men other than those sorted out here, that is, such issues as the Asia-Pacific, the Korean Peninsula, and the easing of tensions in East-West relations.


We must also include the television program recorded right after the meeting and televised that night after 11 o’clock. Former Prime Minister Nakasone spoke frankly in the meeting and in his speech concerning the important parts that he raised. In particular, there was broadcast uncut even such parts as, “At the end of the Second World War,  Stalin made a mistake and sent Soviet troops onto islands that belong to Hokkaido” and “For both Japan and Russia, resolving unresolved postwar issues and concluding a peace treaty are important tasks. Among them, of course, is included the territorial issue.”


When Ambassador to the Soviet Union Muto spoke on Soviet state television this year on the occasion of the Emperor’s birthday, the Soviet side for the first time recognized the “Northern Territories issue” in referring to it. It probably was the result of so-called glasnost (openness), but broadcasting as it was the former Prime Minister’s “Stalin’s mistake” remark was, of course, unprecedented.


I appraise that the visit of former Prime Minister Nakasone to the Soviet Union, to the extent possible at this stage, on the whole fully achieved significant results.


First, former Prime Minister Nakasone did not throw some strange curve ball or any such thing but, by a bold frontal attack, confronted them with Japan’s argument.


His going after the superficial optimism of the present Soviet view of Asia and its Asia-Pacific policy was impressive, but we should highly appraise him for pressing the argument squarely and firmly on the territorial issue as the root of the Japan-Soviet relationship.


He argued on the basis of the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between Japan and Russia and the Treaty for the Exchange of Sakhalin for the Kurile Islands that the four islands are our country’s inherent territory and branded as “Stalin’s mistake” the reason for their invasion and their existence to this day as an “unresolved issue.” Foreigners in all likelihood have never seen such an issue raised publicly in such a way. We will have to wait and see how Gorbachev received such a presentation of the issue, but without a doubt an attack linking “Stalinism and the West’s policy of containment” to the main cause of the postwar tensions between East and West made a strong impression on him.


It is a matter of course to press the issue in linking the 1956 Joint Declaration and the Matsumoto-Gromyko letters. Of interest is how the Soviet side received his pressing that “revision was good both for Japan and for the Soviet Union” in referring to the 1960 revision of the Japan-US Security Treaty. In short, the reason is that the Security Treaty already existed at the time of the 1956 Joint Declaration and the 1960 revision was for the purpose of confirming Japan’s autonomy.


Of course, it is possible to wish for more here.


Even though it is good to assign responsibility to Stalin as the starting point for the Northern Territories issue, that alone is not enough. Starting with Romania, the seizure of territory by the Soviet Union around the time of the Second World War (approximately 670,000 square kilometers) was all Stalin’s responsibility.


Within the late Premier Kosygin’s statement in September 1969 to (then) Foreign Minister Aichi is what the Soviet Union truly fears the most: “If we moved one border, it would have a major ripple effect on the other ones.”


Accordingly, what is important here is that, when Gorbachev brought up the map from 1940, I would have liked Nakasone to have made a distinction immediately between the restoration of an area that was formerly Russian territory and the four islands of the Northern Territories. He should have explained the singular character of the Northern Territories issue: the four islands of our Northern Territories, since their status was set for the first time according to the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between Japan and Russia and the Treaty for the Exchange of Sakhalin for the Kurile Islands, have never been under the control of any country other than Japan.


Also, he should have pointed out, when Gorbachev said that he “should start not from 1956 but from the postwar realities,” that the Soviet military’s invasion of the Kurile Islands began eight days after Japan had accepted the Potsdam Declaration and surrendered unconditionally and the fact that they invaded from the last days of August until the beginning of September. He should also have made clear the Soviet Union’s illegal behavior.


Also, Gorbachev brought forth the “the principle of the inviolability of borders” as a “postwar reality,” but this is completely odd. That is to say, it is because this was the issue in dispute at the final stage of the Helsinki Agreement. It was the Soviet Union that insisted to the end that “postwar borders are immovable.” Against that, it was West Germany that insisted that they were “inviolable.” In the end, unable to go against the general trend, toe Soviet Union took a step back to the “principle of inviolability.” The Helsinki Agreement was concluded on that basis. Gorbachev used the term “inviolability” when Foreign Minister Abe paid a courtesy call on him three years ago, but there is clearly a contradiction. This, too, is something on which I would have liked Nakasone to have pushed sharply.


At the time of the San Francisco Treaty, the Yoshida Cabinet of that time stated that Habomai and Shikotan are part of Hokkaido and that Kunashiri and Etorofu are our country’s inherent territory. Former Prime Minister Nakasone said of all four islands that they are “islands belonging to Hokkaido,” but it may be better to be consistent on this.


In this way, I do think that there could have been more effort on the details. On the whole, however, I think that we should appraise the visit to the Soviet Union as fully significant.


Soviet Union’s Asia Strategy a Future Theme


The second significance of Nakasone’s visit to the Soviet Union is that, in his speech at IMEMO and the appeal he made on television, it made a new presentation of the issue to the Soviet Union’s new opinion leaders and the Soviet masses.


Dr. Primakov, from IMEMO, which hosted the speech, a scholar of high rank – he is as an academician of the Soviet Academy of Sciences – is a deeply trusted member of Gorbachev’s brain trust. In March this year, he assumed the post of chairman for the Russian Inter-Ministerial Commission on the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), established in Moscow. In May, he participated as a guest at the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) General Meeting held in Osaka. He is one of those in charge of Soviet Asia-Pacific policy.


He has been a representative on the Soviet side of the Japan-Soviet Specialists Conference that we have held. He has been an acquaintance of mine for more than 10 years. He is quite a man. He comes to Japan each year, and I look forward to hearing his thoughts when I meet him in September.


Nakasone’s party, after having finished the meeting, traveled to the Lithuanian republic on the coast of the Baltic Sea. Everywhere they went at that time, the television broadcast was a topic of discussion. It seems that there had been a considerable audience for it. I imagine that the broadcast spread widely there, a place forcibly annexed to the Soviet Union as the result of Stalin’s policy, as a topic of discussion.


The third achievement of Nakasone’s visit to the Soviet Union is that it very clearly brought out Gorbachev’s character and his thinking at present.


In reading the record of the meeting, I have the impression, as the former Prime Minister often says, that Gorbachev is quite a man, quick on the uptake, a man of ideas, and on top of that, someone who speaks in his own words. He does not say things simply to please someone with whom he is talking at the moment. Judging from his remarks, which are attentive to his country, he is a man of rather fine sensibilities.


The former Prime Minister, in response to an interviewer’s question on a plan of the Trilateral Commission for him to visit the Soviet Union in November, together with Kissinger and Giscard d’Estaing, and meet Gorbachev, simply left out the main point and dodged it. Such is the sly character that he has. He is also a rather inscrutable person.  


On top of that, there are three things that have become clear about Gorbachev.


The first thing is that there has been no progress in his attitude regarding the Northern Territories issue.


In Japan’s inattentive press were those who jumped to the conclusion that there was progress because Gorbachev did not say that the territorial issue “does not exist” or that, because he referred to the 1956 Joint Declaration, he had hinted at “the return of two islands,” but such conclusions are wrong.


Foreign Minister Shevardnadze, who came to Japan in January the year before last, said, “The Soviet Union’s basic attitude has not changed, but we may have a discussion,” and he had a discussion with Foreign Minister Abe for approximately an hour and a half. It was hardly likely that it would be a fruitful discussion. However, at that point “does not exist” disappeared.


Gorbachev’s raising of the “two islands” in mentioning the 1956 Joint Declaration did nothing more than simply touch on the course of history. What he insisted on was “postwar realities” and the “Helsinki precedent” that was built on the recognition of postwar borders.


Something to which I would like to pay some attention is, in this case, the point where there remains doubt as to whether or not he himself really gave it sufficient thought. This is also related to the following.


The second thing, which has become clear, is his inattentiveness regarding Japan. That he had crammed in advance, drawing on a statement of Nakasone from his time as prime minister and drawing incorrectly on part of a report from a certain Japanese research institute, is well understood. However, such statements as “With the progress of leading-edge technology, in Japan the factor of central planning is becoming increasingly important” or “Japan is learning from the Soviet Union in regard to labor morale and discipline” show the weakness and error of his awareness of Japan as it is. It is proof of his simply receiving report from officials of the old school responsible for Japan and neglecting to do his own studies, and the Northern Territories issue is no exception.


The third thing is that, when we look closely at the contents of the meeting, in regard to Gorbachev’s Asia diplomacy, particularly in regard to diplomacy with Japan, it seems that the strategic scenarios are still not decided.


As I see it, as expected, and for those very reasons, the time was not ripe for Nakasone to visit the Soviet Union but, thinking about it, I believe that it also was not unreasonable.


He had the difficult burden of the nuclear arms reduction negotiations with the United States; perestroika, which is not going all that well; the nationalities issue, suddenly arisen; President Reagan’s visit there; the holding of the All-Union Conference of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to suppress the conservatives, and the conference’s preparation; and, right after that, flying to Poland to bring the countries of Eastern Europe into line. With all that, he was running around without any chance to catch his breath. I imagine him, at the end of all that, taking a break and then turning to address the issues of Asia and Japan.


If this way of looking at it is not too far off, then I would like him to take this meeting as a major reference and ponder it thoroughly himself.  


Having said that, it is not that I have any illusions.


Looking closely, we see that he is undertaking perestroika, glasnost, and the revision of diplomatic and military strategy less in thinking of the world than for the sake of the Soviet Union. I suppose that it is natural, but it is for that very reason that, whether it is his view of Asia or his view of Japan, that arrogance is striking and cannot be helped.


Diplomacy is harsh. It will not do to harbor the sweet illusion that he will give even the slightest degree of consideration to Japan’s position.


What to Do, Our Future Response


Japan-Soviet negotiations, as I have stated above, will from this point enter a new stage. For the time being, United Nations discussions at the diplomatic working level and such are planned. One can probably consider full-fledged diplomatic activity starting with the coming to Japan of Foreign Minister Shevardnadze, the details of which will be decided in the meeting between Uno and Shevardnadze at the United Nations General Assembly in September. It may take place in December.


Accordingly, Japan must make various preparations on the basis of that objective.


First, the Government, having fully considered the results of this meeting between Nakasone and Gorbachev, should reconfirm the principle whose main axis is “the return of all four islands together” and prepare its basic position.


The ruling Liberal Democratic Party, in particular, is a very big tent. Within it are both persons who seriously desire the issue’s resolution as well as those who are set in their anti-Soviet emotion. Regarding this, I think it necessary to have party executives show leadership and prepare a strong position.


From the strategic situation concerning the Asia-Pacific and from the Soviet side’s position, as seen in this meeting, we must consider that the wall is still a considerably thick one. Accordingly, it is necessary to resolutely prepare and improve our position here.


Second, and this pertains to the diplomatic authorities, they should reflect deeply on the insufficiency of the efforts to have the Soviet side’s leaders understand Japan and, having done so, they should start to take effective and positive action.  


Also, diplomacy – and this holds for all of it, but in particular for diplomacy toward the Soviet Union – involves a wide range of aspects, including political, military, economic, and other ones. Accordingly, it is necessary from this point forward to study fully the other side’s expected approach and other issues.


Until now, it has been, if anything, simply monotonous. Moreover, I have become concerned over the way of proceeding, that of considering one’s action in response to seeing how one’s opponent moves. This will no longer do.


Third, pertaining to the mass media’s actions, much of what they did this time as well was a cause for concern. For example, there were striking headlines like “Secretary General Gorbachev Hints at Return of Two Islands.” For one thing, the competitive mentality of a fiercely competitive society makes them do this. At the same time, it is also a recognition of the facts that comes from inattention.


Recently, too, concerning a research meeting of Japanese and Soviet scholars held at a certain research institute in Tokyo, there was a newspaper that put up the headline “Soviet Side Proposes Joint Administration,” but this and other remarks were only things that young Soviet scholars were saying in a completely personal and exemplary way.


As the mass media’s influence is great, I would like to pay close attention to it.


Fourth, I am also concerned about the attitude of scholars and critics. It was that way at the time of Okinawa, too, when you would notice them say and do irresponsible things at the sign of some slightly new movement. I suppose that individuals are free to have their own views. Given who the other side is, however, there is the possibility of such views at times giving the Soviets an impression of a split in our public opinion and misleading them. For that reason alone, asking scholars and critics to exercise caution is, to me, someone who has been involved in campaigns for many years, a matter of course.


In any case, in view of this issue’s nature, the road to its resolution will be extremely difficult. However, we are nearing a new peak. I would like us both to be careful in approaching this.

On 22 July 1988, former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone met Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow as part of a Japanese campaign to recover four islands lost to the Soviet Union at the end of the Second World War. In the aftermath of the visit, Ichiro Suetsugu, secretary-general of the Council on National Security Problems, wrote a report appraising the former Japanese leader’s performance on his Soviet visit and assessing future issues in the campaign.

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2019-1220, Act on Access to Information Held by Administrative Organs, published online by the Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Translated by Stephen Mercado.


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