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Subnational Diplomacy: Japan and Sakhalin

Yakov Zinberg


The results of an opinion poll published in July 1995 indicate that the residents of the Russian Federation's (RF) Sakhalin Region (SR) (Oblast in Russian) have a high degree of interest in their closest foreign neighbor - Japan. Little wonder that this is so since the SR is the only island border region separating the RF mainland from Japan's Hokkaido District and that the Hokkaido District is the SR's major trading partner.

The post-Second World War Russo-Japanese confrontation provides the context in which the recent growth of constructive mutual interaction between Japan's Hokkaido District and the RF Sakhalin Region deserves thorough critical attention. Ever since establishment of Mikhail Gorbachev's political regime in the Soviet Union in 1985, there has been an activization of local interests in the de facto border region that has mainly been a central authority concern. The heavily militarized character of the Sakhalin-Hokkaido borderlands is evidence of both central governments' concern about retaining absolute control over local political and economic activities. One-third of Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) army personnel is stationed on Hokkaido, with half of the SDF firepower being concentrated in the area.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
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