1. During the bilateral meeting between PM Abe and President Putin held on thesidelines of the G20 on 15 November 2015, the two leaders agreed to coordinate to realise a visit to Japan by President Putin at a mutually convenient time for the both side, effectively giving up the idea of realising it within the year 2015, which had been agreed upon between the two leaders in February 2014.
2. There are speculations about PM Abe’s visiting Russia prior to a visit to Japan by President Putin. On 10 December 2015, Nikkei and Kyodo reported that, without waiting for the visit to Japan by President Putin, PM Abe might visit to Russia, possibly to a provincial city of the country such as Vladivostok and Khabarovsk early next year. On 22 December 2015, Yomiuri also reported that PM Abe was considering visiting a regional city in Russia at the invitation by President Putin, before the G7 Ise-Shima Summit in May 2016. According to the media, if the visit by PM Abe would be to a regional city, it would be regarded as an unofficial visit and results of the visit do not have to be tangible. However, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told the press on 10 December 2015 that there was no such visit (to Russia by PM Abe) planned, denying the reports.
3. Still, many observers presume that it is likely for PM Abe to visit the RussianFar East next year. PM Abe strongly wishes to maintain dialogues with President Putin to make progress with the northern territories issue and as the Chair of the G7 Summit, PM Abe also wishes to know Russia’s stance on issues such as anti-terrorism and the situation in Ukraine before the Summit, in which Russia will not participate. A visit to Japan by President Putin, on the other hand, would unlikely take place before the G7 and the next possible timing would be sometime after the Upper House election in Japan in July 2016.
4. The Russian economy is in unfavorable condition with falling oil prices and negative impact from the sanctions imposed by EU over the Ukraine issue. Thus, Russia would like to have more Japanese investment coming in, especially for the development of the Russian Far East, and to this end, economically, it is important to continue to have dialogues with Japan at various levels while it is also beneficial for Japan to leverage its economic cooperation with Russia to make progress with the territorial issue.
5. However, although PM Abe is so eager to produce some results on the issue of the northern territories by taking the advantage of his personal ties with President Putin, it is less likely for the Russian side to make any concession over the long-standing territorial issue.