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Yeltsin, Hashimoto bolster ties during Siberian retreat

SHARE Yeltsin, Hashimoto bolster ties during Siberian retreat

At a "no necktie" fishing summit, the leaders of Russia and Japan came away Saturday with the catch of the day: a solid plan for improving relations between their countries, divided by decades of mistrust.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto agreed to a wide-ranging plan for political and economic cooperation during their meeting at a Siberian retreat.The agreement includes steps to boost Japan's investment in Russia, Japanese assistance for deeper Russian involvement in the international economy and cooperation in traditional and nuclear energy projects.

The sides also agreed to deepen their military cooperation, including an exchange of visits by senior military officials and joint rescue maneuvers, said Hashimoto spokesman Hobuaki Tanaka.

The two leaders met in Krasnoyarsk, a Siberian city of 1 million people halfway between Moscow and Tokyo, for an informal summit whose stated goal was to develop a personal friendship and overcome the tensions that have marked Russian-Japanese ties for much of the century.

Russia and Japan still have not signed a peace treaty formally ending World War II and have been unable to resolve a long territorial dispute over the Kuril Islands. Economic ties are dismal, with sagging trade and minimal Japanese investment.

"Today we can say that the main goal of establishing the relations of friendship, mutual understanding and trust between the two leaders has been achieved," said Yeltsin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky. "The contact was excellent. The atmosphere was unprecedented."

It was the third and easily the most informal meeting between the two, who met in Moscow in 1996 and in Denver last June during a summit of the Group of 8, the world's leading industrialized nations.

Yeltsin set the tone for the 24-hour get-together by embracing his guest as Hashimoto arrived by helicopter at Sosna, a former Communist Party retreat on the banks of the Yenisei River.

Hashimoto surprised Yeltsin by taking pictures of him as he emerged from his quarters a little bit later.

"Oh, I didn't even think it was you," said Yeltsin. The Japanese premier, known for his passion for photography, then presented the Russian leader with a small camera.

In rain and fog, the two men fished on the Yenisei. Hashimoto caught a small grayling while Yeltsin caught nothing, Tanaka said.

After three rounds of talks on the boat and on land, the two met for dinner. With Russia seeking to expand its presence in Asia, Yeltsin and Hashimoto were thought to have discussed everything from politics to pipelines.