TOKYO, May 21. /TASS/. The foreign and defense ministers of Japan and Russia will hold another "two-plus-two" meeting before the end of the year, an agreement on that will be confirmed during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s upcoming visit to Russia, Japan’s Nikkei daily wrote on Monday.
The previous "two-plus-two" meeting took place in the Japanese capital of Tokyo in March 2017, while the next meeting is expected to be held in Russia in the autumn of 2018, Nikkei’s sources said.
According to the sources, Japan’s top military brass are expected to make visits to Russia in response to Russian General Staff Chief General Valery Gerasimov’s visit to Japan in 2017.
Nikkei also wrote that "Tokyo hopes that cultivating closer security and economic ties with Moscow will bring the two sides closer to a postwar peace treaty to resolve the dispute over the southern Kuril Islands, which are effectively controlled by Moscow and claimed by Japan as the Northern Territories." "Abe and Putin will also agree to repeat a program this year allowing former residents of the Russia-controlled islands to visit the graves of their relatives without visas. Japan hopes to make the visit an annual event, but the Russian side is unlikely to agree to such an arrangement this time," the newspaper added. The first flight to the South Kuril Islands for their former Japanese residents was arranged in September 2017.
However, according to Nikkei, Tokyo is inclined to take its relations with Washington in consideration while boosting ties with Moscow. "If we deepen our cooperation with Russia too much, our relationship with the US could deteriorate," a Japanese government insider said as cited by the daily.
Since the mid-20th century, Russia and Japan have been holding consultations in order to clinch a peace treaty as a follow-up to World War II. The Kuril Islands issue remains the sticking point since after WWII the islands were handed over to the Soviet Union while Japan laid claims to the four southern islands. In 1956, the two countries signed a common declaration on ending the state of war and restoring diplomatic and all other relations, however, a peace treaty has still not been reached. Moscow has stated many times that Russia’s sovereignty over the islands cannot be called into question.