Although media coverage of his trip to Russia has kept Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the spotlight during the run-up to the leadership election for his Liberal Democratic Party, he failed to achieve any major breakthrough on key diplomatic matters.
Already projected to easily beat his sole rival, former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, in the Sept. 20 election and remain as prime minister with support from a majority of LDP lawmakers, Abe had no concerns about being away from Japan for four days during the leadership campaign period.
"It was impossible for Mr Ishiba to make headlines and Mr Abe took center stage" during his visit to Vladivostok for an annual economic forum, said Itsuro Nakamura, a professor of international politics at the University of Tsukuba.
In the Russian Far East port city, Abe held a series of bilateral meetings with regional leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the fourth Eastern Economic Forum.
Even before his Russia trip, Abe had another unexpected chance to demonstrate his leadership to voters in the LDP election in responding to a series of natural disasters such as a powerful typhoon that hit western Japan and a deadly earthquake that rocked Hokkaido.
But Abe's visit to the Russian Far East has not resulted in a clear diplomatic course to pursue if he does indeed win a new three-year term as LDP chief and prime minister.
One of the key issues at the Japan-China summit on Wednesday was whether Abe could agree with Xi that he would visit China on Oct 23, when the two nations celebrate the 40th anniversary of the bilateral peace and friendship treaty that took effect on that day in 1978.
But he failed to set the date, instead merely agreeing with Xi to "accelerate arrangements" for a visit to China.
Nor was Abe able to announce any specific projects related to the "One Belt, One Road" cross-border infrastructure initiative advocated by Xi, although the Japanese leader was ready to promote bilateral economic cooperation.
Yuki Tatsumi, co-director of the East Asia Program at the Stimson Center, a Washington-based think tank, said, "Without a major announcement on some cooperative initiatives, this may not be big enough to be called an 'achievement' per se."
With Russia, there was little progress on the long-standing dispute over a group of Russian-held islands claimed by Japan off Hokkaido, even after Abe met with Putin for the 22nd time. The islands are called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia.
Abe might have frustrated Putin by pressing him to settle the sovereignty issue and conclude a post-World War II peace treaty, as the Russian leader abruptly proposed Wednesday that Moscow and Tokyo conclude a peace treaty "without any preconditions" by the end of the year.
His suggestion goes against Tokyo's position that a peace deal should come after a settlement of the territorial issue.
Some diplomatic experts pointed out that Putin may have made the comment in a bid to slow the pace of peace treaty negotiations by proposing something that Japan would not accept.
On North Korea, Abe said in a speech at the forum on Wednesday he intends to meet with leader Kim Jong Un to discuss the North's abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.
There was speculation that Kim might attend the Eastern Economic Forum to make his debut at an international event, but the Russian government announced in advance that he would not come to Vladivostok.
Nakamura said Abe may have been relieved to learn of Kim's absence. If he had joined the forum and held bilateral talks with Abe, the meeting might not have produced any tangible results on the abduction issue. Abe has made the settlement of the issue as one of his top priorities.
Don’t forget our elders can suffer in silence too: suicide prevention
Many people think that mental health and suicide are not topics that impact our elders but they could not be more wrong. The data tells us there continues to be an emerging trend when it comes to peop...
Wherever you look these days, not matter the developed country, whole population groups and peoples struggle with the daily grind of life. From children in state care to mental health, from affordable housing to the primary health system and from education to employmen...
For the last few years I have been fortunate to have been involved in the aged care sector and have seen both the lows and highs. Today we live in a world where most of us are living longer thank to more awareness around healthy living, the advancement of better medica...
You can’t go past a news paper, radio show or television news story these days without being flooded by all things Bitcoin or Crypto Currency. Some say it’s the new world of money while others suggest its all just a passing fad. Whatever your position or preference of...
The New Zealand Maori Council has called on the Government to step in and ensure the recommendations made by the Children’s Commissioner in respect of youth detention facilities be implemented without delay. The Report released to the previous Government carried a seri...