Putin, Abe signal no resolution on island dispute
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.
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