Putin to Abe: ‘Let’s sign peace deal this year’

Rus­sian pres­i­dent pro­poses sign­ing treaty be­fore re­solv­ing is­land dis­pute

Global Times - - Front Page -

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin turned to Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe on a con­fer­ence stage on Wed­nes­day and of­fered to sign a peace treaty by the end of this year to for­mally end World War II hos­til­i­ties be­tween the two coun­tries.

But soon af­ter Putin made the dra­matic of­fer, a Ja­panese gov­ern­ment spokesper­son in Tokyo said Ja­pan wants the re­turn of islands in the Pa­cific cap­tured by Rus­sian troops in the last days of the war be­fore it signs a peace treaty.

Rus­sia and Ja­pan have been in dis­pute for seven decades over the islands and as a re­sult have still not for­mally ended their WWII hos­til­i­ties. The stand­off has held back eco­nomic ties be­tween the two near-neigh­bors.

“An idea has just come into my head,” Putin said to Abe dur­ing a ques­tion and an­swer ses­sion at an eco­nomic fo­rum in the Rus­sian city of Vladi­vos­tok. “Let’s con­clude a peace treaty be­fore the end of this year, with­out any pre-con­di­tions.”

Later in the same ses­sion, Putin said of his of­fer: “I was not jok­ing.” He said his idea was that the two sides sign a treaty first, and then work through the is­sues on which they are in dis­pute af­ter­ward.

Both Moscow and Tokyo claim sovereignty over the islands, known in Rus­sia as the Kurile islands and in Ja­pan as the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ries.

At a reg­u­lar brief­ing in Tokyo for re­porters af­ter Putin had made the of­fer, Ja­pan’s Chief Cabi­net Sec­re­tary Yoshi­hide Suga said: “I don’t want to com­ment on what Pres­i­dent Putin said .... How­ever, our po­si­tion that the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ries is­sue is re­solved be­fore any peace treaty re­mains un­changed.”

Both Abe and Putin say they want a so­lu­tion to the dis­pute. The Ja­panese leader has said a deal would un­lock trade and in­vest­ment from Ja­panese com­pa­nies for Rus­sia.

But for Putin, who casts him­self pub­licly as a fierce cham­pion of Rus­sia’s na­tional in­ter­ests, giv­ing up the islands would risk a po­lit­i­cal back­lash at home.

Ear­lier, Putin said se­cu­rity in the re­gion was a key is­sue and that Rus­sia was con­cerned by a move to es­tab­lish a US mis­sile de­fense sys­tem there.

“This is all the sub­ject of ne­go­ti­a­tions... We have been ne­go­ti­at­ing for 70 years,” Putin said.

“Shinzo said let’s change ap­proaches. Okay,” Putin said, be­fore propos­ing they sign a peace treaty.

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