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Russia, Japan to hold first consultations on joint activities on southern Kuriles

March 18, 2:48 UTC+3 TOKYO

Tokyo will offer Moscow a plan for cooperation in medicine, fisheries and tourism

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TOKYO, March 18. /TASS/. The first round of the Russian-Japanese consultations on joint economic activities on the southern Kuril Islands will be held in Tokyo on Saturday. Taking part in them will be Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Igor Morgulov, and his Japanese counterpart, Takeo Akiba.

Tokyo is expected to offer Moscow a plan for cooperation in medicine, fisheries and tourism. According to the Kyodo news agency, the issue at hand is, in particular, efforts to create the necessary infrastructure on the southern Kuril Islands and modernize the existing one using advanced Japanese technologies. Besides, the possibility of creating a system, within which Japanese experts will be able to provide remote medical services to the islands’ residents, is considered.

To develop cooperation in fisheries and seafood production, Japan wants to propose to conduct a joint study of the Russian islands’ water area. This will help receive complete information about the resource base in fishing areas and explore places suitable for breeding fish. As for tourism, the Japanese side favors organizing tours on cruise vessels in this region and joint development of port facilities and hotels.

In the run-up to the first round of consultations, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, noted that Moscow is ready to study Tokyo’s proposals on joint economic activities on the southern Kuril Islands, but any projects should not contradict Russia’s legislation.

Japanese Foreign Minister, Fumio Kishida, told a news conference on Friday that the results of the talks will be a prologue to the upcoming March 20 "two plus two" meeting that will involve the two countries’ foreign and defense ministers. "Relying on the results of the upcoming consultations at the level of the Japanese and Russian deputy foreign ministers, we will discuss the joint economic activities, which sets the goal of making progress in the issue of signing a peace treaty," he said.

Development of cooperation

The basis for the development of economic cooperation between Russia and Japan is currently the eight-point plan proposed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Sochi on May 6. The document envisages fostering ties between the two countries in the energy sector, small and medium-sized businesses, the industrialization of the Far East and the expansion of the export base. It also includes a proposal to boost cooperation in the field of advanced technologies, including nuclear power industry, and in humanitarian exchanges.

Following Putin’s visit to Japan on December 15-16 and his meeting with Abe, a joint statement was adopted, which said that the beginning of the consultations on joint Russian-Japanese economic activities in the southern Kuril Islands could be an important step toward signing a peace treaty. Besides, the two sides proceed from the assumption that this statement and any agreements reached on its basis on joint economic activities and its implementation do not impair the Russian and Japanese stances on the peace treaty issue.

Top-level contacts are to remain close this year as well. The Japanese premier earlier said that he plans to pay an official visit to Russia twice. The first trip is scheduled for late April or early May, there are no exact dates yet. Besides, Abe promised to come to the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia’s Pacific port city of Vladivostok.

In light of this, Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Hiroshige Seko, said at a meeting of the Council on the Development of Economic Ties with Russia on March 10 it is necessary to concretize the eight-point plan taking into account the prime minister’s planned visits to Russia.

Historical background

Russia and Japan have been negotiating a peace treaty following World War II since mid-20th century. The main stumbling block to this is the issue of the ownership of the southern Kuril Islands. After the end of World War II, all Kuril Islands were incorporated into the Soviet Union. However, the ownership of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan islands and the Habomai Islands is challenged by Japan. The Russian Foreign Ministry has stated many times that Russia’s sovereignty over the islands is beyond doubt.

In 1956, the Soviet Union and Japan signed a joint declaration on ceasing the state of war. The two countries resumed diplomatic and other relations, however no peace treaty has been signed until now. The Soviet Union committed to paper in the declaration its readiness to hand over Shikotan and Habomai to Japan as a goodwill gesture after the peace treaty is ultimately signed. Japan’s position is that the peace treaty should be signed after solving the issue of the ownership of all four southern Kuril Islands.

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