Japanese-Soviet Relations under Gorbachev

Roy Kim


A restrained relationship between the Soviet Union and Japan great military and economic powers and geographically close neighbors in Northeast Asia -is an international anomaly of considerable magnitude. Resolution of this anomaly has been delayed for the last 40 years by several factors, some bilateral and others involving third parties. Yet, it would be surprising if the two nations were anything but restrained and suspicious of each other. Historically they fought each other in East Asia since the turn of the century. The two countries have very little in common in social, political, and cultural spheres. For this and other reasons, the Soviet image in Japan is extremely unfavorable. Yet the growth of both nations' power -militarily for Moscow and economically for Tokyo - has gradually and steadily increased the mutual necessity for improving relations. Given Soviet military strength in the Pacific, Tokyo has attempted, without much success, to have its relations with Moscow in a "self-confident and unhostile" manner.f Moscow's policy toward Tokyo was somewhat inactive, if not negative, resulting in more damage to itself than to the Japanese. Recently this policy appears to be changing. This essay examines the probable causes of this change, actual processes of improvement, remaining obstacles, and future prospects.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/cbp.1988.31


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