Politics

There's been 'very little progress' in talks between Japan and Russia, expert says

Bhawna Sharma, CNBC contributor
Key Points
  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin met over the weekend in Russia.
  • "Very little progress" has been made in the two nations' discussions about disputed Pacific islands, according to James Brown, an associate professor of political science at Temple University in Japan.
  • Still, the two nations could potentially find common ground on the ongoing global diplomatic efforts with North Korea, he said.
VIDEO2:1002:10
The Russia-Japan islands dispute remains a sticking point: Professor

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin met over the weekend in Russia to discuss disputed Pacific islands and potential economic cooperation.

It was the two leaders' 21st meeting, but Russia-Japan discussions remain gridlocked, and there is little confidence that upcoming meetings could improve the situation, according to one expert.

"From what we've just seen at the summit in Moscow, there's very little progress that has been made. I think these efforts from Abe have not managed to create any progress yet. There's little reason to think that anything will change with subsequent meetings," James Brown, an associate professor of political science at Temple University in Japan, told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Monday.

Territorial disputes over the South Kuril Islands have long been a source of contention between Japan and Russia. Since Soviet forces occupied the islands in 1945, the two countries have not signed a peace treaty.

"The problem is that the Japanese side wants territorial concessions and their deals are always very difficult because, quintessentially, territorial issues are a zero-sum game."

Despite the conflict, Japan has in recent years attempted to strengthen political and economic relations with Russia. But such efforts are quickly losing momentum as Russia faces increasing international isolation due to multiple factors.

Perhaps a more promising opportunity for the two countries to find common ground lies in the ongoing efforts to denuclearize North Korea. In fact, both countries are on the outside of discussions about the proposed summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Because of that, potential decisions reached at the meeting could leave out Russian and Japanese interests, Brown said.

"With the increase in diplomatic activity on the Peninsula, there are some increased commonalities between Japan and Russia and the reason for this is, I think, that the both of them feel a bit left out," Brown said.