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.”
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