TASS, May 10. Tokyo seeks to bring relations with Moscow to a new level, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said at a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Friday.
"Today, I would like to have a detailed conversation with you, Mr. Lavrov, seeking to resolve the territorial issue, which has remained unresolved for a long time, and make a peace treaty, while boosting bilateral relations in a wide range of areas and thus brining Japan-Russia relations to a new level," the Japanese top diplomat said.
"True partnership between Japan and Russia will contribute to stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region, and it will also be in line with the two countries’ strategic interests," Taro Kono added.
According to him, the number of Russians who visited Japan in March 2019 had increased by more than 30% compared to the same period in 2018, reaching a new high.
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 joint 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.
On November 14, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Singapore and agreed that the two countries would speed up peace treaty talks based on the 1956 declaration. The two countries’ foreign ministers, Sergey Lavrov and Taro Kono, oversee the negotiations conducted by their deputies, Igor Morgulov and Takeo Mori.
The Joint Declaration said that the Soviet government was ready to hand Shikotan Island and a group of small islands over to Japan, adding that Tokyo would get actual control of the islands after a peace treaty was signed. However, after Japan and the United States had signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security in 1960, the Soviet Union withdrew its obligation to hand over the islands. A Soviet government’s memorandum dated January 27, 1960, said that those islands would only be handed over to Japan if all foreign troops were pulled out of the country.