The summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wrapped up in Tokyo on Friday with some agreements on economic cooperation, but no breakthrough on the territorial issue that Japan had craved for.
At a joint press conference with Abe, Putin stressed that the issue of the disputed territories (called the Southern Kurils by Russia and the Northern Territories by Japan) is the outcome of World War II, and implied that the U.S.-Japan alliance is an impediment to a solution.
The islets and surrounding waters are important for the Russian navy's access to the Pacific, while Russia has to consider Japan's special ties with the United States, said Putin.
Putin's remarks meant something as Japanese officials had said before Putin's visit that Japan did not rule out the possibility of the deployment of two U.S. military bases on two of the four disputed islands in the future.
Actually, the United States began to impede reconciliation between Japan and the Soviet Union shortly after the end of World War II. It threatened to take Japan's Okinawa permanently if Japan reconciled with the Soviet Union.
In some sense, the non-reciprocal alliance between the United States and Japan is turning into Japan's burden. The more the Abe government does in strengthening the alliance, the smaller room for Japan's diplomacy.
On Tuesday, a U.S. Osprey aircraft crash-landed off Okinawa. When local authorities lodged a protest, angry Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, the top U.S. military commander in Okinawa, said locals should appreciate U.S. pilots' move to keep the crash-landing away from residential areas.
Although local residents frequently staged protests and called for banning the operation of Osprey aircraft, the U.S. military soon announced the resumption of the flights of Osprey, totally ignoring local resentment.
During the recent U.S. presidential election, Japanese diplomacy's excessive reliance on the U.S.-Japan alliance was completely exposed.
At the very beginning, the Abe government betted on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and he flew to New York to meet her in September. Yet, after the election, Abe again immediately rushed to New York to flatter President-elect Donald Trump.
All of Japan's policies against its neighbors, including Russia, China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and South Korea, are heavily subject to U.S. global strategies.
The reason why Abe performs teeter-totter in diplomacy is that he could not climb out of the "tender trap" of the U.S.-Japan alliance.