Ter­ri­tory stand­off

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By CAI HONG in Tokyo cai­hong@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Russia and Ja­pan agree to start talks on joint eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties on four dis­puted is­lands.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe agreed in Tokyo on Fri­day to start ne­go­ti­a­tions on joint eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties on the four dis­puted is­lands that have pre­vented the two coun­tries from sign­ing a peace treaty.

Dur­ing Putin’s visit, Ja­pan and Russia made no break­through in the dis­pute over the is­lands, known as the South­ern Kurils in Russia and the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ries in Ja­pan.

At a joint news con­fer­ence with Abe on Fri­day, Putin dis­missed the no­tion that he was only in­ter­ested in get­ting eco­nomic ben­e­fits from Ja­pan.

“If any­one thinks we’re in­ter­ested only in de­vel­op­ing eco­nomic links and a peace deal is of sec­ondary im­por­tance, that’s not the case,” he said.

“For me, the most im­por­tant thing is to sign a peace agree­ment be­cause that would cre­ate the con­di­tions for longterm co­op­er­a­tion.”

The joint eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties on the is­lands would cover the fish­ing, tourism, med­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal fields un­der a “spe­cial frame­work”.

Abe and Russia dis­cussed a plan on eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion pro­posed by Abe in May in Sochi, Russia.

Abe’s pro­posal in­cludes projects in the en­ergy sec­tor, trans­fer of cut­ting-edge Ja­panese tech­nolo­gies and the in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion of Russia’ Far East, a re­gion that Putin is ea­ger to de­velop.

If any­one thinks ... a peace deal is of sec­ondary im­por­tance, that’s not the case.”

$2.5 bil­lion

Ja­pan’s con­tri­bu­tion to the eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion plan will be worth $2.54 bil­lion, in­clud­ing the sum from the pri­vate busi­nesses, ac­cord­ing to Kyodo News, which quoted a Ja­panese government source.

Putin said co­op­er­a­tion in the eco­nomic sphere will serve as a ba­sis for build­ing full- fledged part­ner­ship re­la­tions.

Kyodo News said the two coun­tries have reached an agree­ment for Ja­panese com­pa­nies to par­tic­i­pate in the devel­op­ment of nat­u­ral gas fields on Russia’s Gy­dan Penin­sula, which faces the Arc­tic Ocean.

As Putin has in­sisted the joint eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties on the four dis­puted is­lands be car­ried out un­der Russia’s sovereignty, Ja­pan is con­cerned they would lead to ef­fec­tive recog­ni­tion of Rus­sian sovereignty over the is­lands.

Ac­cord­ing to the Ja­pan-Soviet Joint Dec­la­ra­tion, which the two coun­tries signed in 1956 to end a state of war and re­store diplo­matic ties, the Soviet Union agreed to re­turn two of the four is­lands af­ter a peace treaty is signed.

Abe was said to in­tend to re­al­ize the re­turn of the two is­lands first, with an eye to con­tin­ued ne­go­ti­a­tions over the re­main­ing two.

At the me­dia con­fer­ence, Abe and Putin noted that some dif­fi­cul­ties still need to be re­solved.

Putin called the lack of a peace treaty “a neg­a­tive legacy of the past”, ad­ding that the dis­pute over the is­lands can­not be solved soon and the two coun­tries should con­tinue mak­ing ef­forts to find a so­lu­tion.

But an­a­lysts in Ja­pan said there is no room for op­ti­mism with re­gard to the fate of the ne­go­ti­a­tions on the is­lands’ re­turn.

Vladimir Putin, Rus­sian pres­i­dent

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