Putin, Abe sig­nal no res­o­lu­tion on is­land dis­pute

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -


Rus­sia and Ja­pan yesterday sig­nalled there was no res­o­lu­tion af­ter a two-day sum­mit to a decades-long ter­ri­to­rial dis­pute that has blocked them from achiev­ing a peace treaty to for­mally end World War II hos­til­i­ties. Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe held talks in Abe’s an­ces­tral home­town and in Tokyo, in the lat­est at­tempt to se­cure a deal.

“It would be naive to think we can solve this prob­lem in an hour,” Putin said at a joint press con­fer­ence with Abe. “There must be an end to this his­toric ping­pong,” he said. “The fun­da­men­tal in­ter­ests of Rus­sia and Ja­pan re­quire a long-term deal.”

Abe con­curred, but said the ef­fort would con­tinue de­spite the “dif­fi­cult path ahead”.

“Con­clud­ing a peace treaty that has not been con­cluded in more than 70 years is not easy,” Abe said. “But we can­not re­solve this is­sue only by as­sert­ing the cor­rect­ness of each other’s claims.”

The Soviet Union seized four is­lands off Ja­pan’s north­ern coast in 1945 in the clos­ing days of the war.

The dis­pute over the is­lands, known as the South­ern Kurils in Rus­sia and the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ries in Ja­pan, has pre­vented the two sides from fully putting the con­flict be­hind them. Abe has looked to win con­ces­sions by dan­gling the prospect of ma­jor Ja­panese in­vest­ment in front of Moscow, which is mired in an eco­nomic cri­sis made worse by fall­ing oil prices and West­ern sanc­tions over Crimea and Ukraine.

Be­fore they spoke, the two lead­ers over­saw a flurry of deal sign­ings by their gov­ern­ments and busi­nesses and agreed to be­gin ne­go­ti­a­tions to­wards pos­si­ble eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion in the dis­puted is­lands. Abe said they had agreed on “more than 60 projects” in eco­nomic-re­lated sec­tors.

“I be­lieve there are a wide range of ar­eas where Ja­pan and Rus­sia have not ex­er­cised our fullest po­ten­tial, de­spite the fact that we are neigh­bor­ing na­tions,” he said.

‘Se­cu­rity is­sues’

Putin said busi­ness ties were a way to build con­fi­dence. “Our work to­gether on the eco­nomic front will help us cre­ate a foun­da­tion to im­prove re­la­tions,” he said. The to­tal con­tri­bu­tion from Ja­pan in terms of loans and in­vest­ment was val­ued at about 300 bil­lion yen ($2.5 bil­lion), Ky­odo News re­ported, cit­ing Deputy Chief Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Ko­taro Nogami.

De­spite any largesse from Tokyo, few be­lieve Putin is likely to hand the is­lands back, not least be­cause of their strate­gic value sit­ting astride the en­trance to the Sea of Okhotsk. “There are se­cu­rity is­sues,” Putin said. “We have two naval bases in Vladi­vos­tok, from where our ships go out to the Pa­cific. — AFP

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