The Criminalisation of Russo-Japanese Border Trade : Causes and Consequences

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)711-728
Journal / PublicationEurope - Asia Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2003
Externally publishedYes


Under normal circumstances a flurry of interregional economic activity would be seen as a welcome development in an otherwise stagnant Russo-Japanese economic relationship. Indeed, one Russian correspondent considers the trade in fish and marine products to be the most effective achievement in economic relations between Japan and Russia. What a pity, he laments, '... that it is absolutely illegal and of a criminal nature'. One scholar has even described the criminal nature of local trade as 'a cancer threatening the very health of Russo-Japanese relations.' This article examines the issue of the criminalisation of local trade and argues that, in addition to the domestic fallout from Russia's troubled transition to democracy and a market-based economic system, factors on the Japanese side, including the government's intransigent approach to the Northern Territories problem, have also contributed to this commerce. The criminal nature of Russo-Japanese border trade has not only led to the depletion of marine resources in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Northern Pacific Ocean but also complicated efforts by both sides to resolve the long-standing territorial dispute.