The Multilateralist

Take an APEC and call in the morning

Russia and Japan have been feuding this week, after President Medvedev traveled to one of the disputed Kuril islands. Now, a few days later, there’s a hint that Moscow is trying to make nice. And not a moment too soon. Japan and Russia will share a stage shortly at the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation ...

Russia and Japan have been feuding this week, after President Medvedev traveled to one of the disputed Kuril islands. Now, a few days later, there’s a hint that Moscow is trying to make nice. And not a moment too soon. Japan and Russia will share a stage shortly at the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

The dispute — the worst between the two countries in years — threatens to overshadow the November 13-14 APEC meeting to be held in the port city of Yokohama just outside Tokyo. But in a possible attempt to calm tensions, Medvedev has written to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan thanking him for his invitation to take part in the summit, the Kremlin said in a statement.

One of the advantages of frequent summitry is that it may accelerate the process of ruffled feather-smoothing after incidents like this. Abandoning a summit as a sign of displeasure is usually far too dramatic a step. And failing to make nice beforehand can produce  a very awkward gathering, with leaders avoiding each other in the hallways and carefully calibrating the warmth of their handshakes.

Update:  A reader makes an interesting point: "The Japanese missed the boat. When Russia threw off the old Soviet Union and was in total economic disarray, the Japanese could have probably bought those islands off the Russians. Now that Japan is in decline economically and Russia has income from resources there is less need. Today Russia is more concerned about strategic and military matters."

 Twitter: @multilateralist

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