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Japan proceeding from 2001 agreement in resolving ‘northern territories’ problem

July 21, 2015, 5:06 UTC+3 TOKYO
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TOKYO, July 21. /TASS/. The Japanese government will demand that "Russia honor the agreement [signed] in 2001 to seek the conclusion of a peace treaty by resolving the dispute over ownership" of the Southern Kurile chain of islands - Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan and the Habomai archipelago, Kyodo news agency said on Tuesday quoting "sources familiar with the matter".

"Tokyo wants to ensure that it and Moscow are on the same page on the island issue before it invites Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Japan this year for a summit meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe," the agency said.

"The Japanese government's concerns are growing about talks on the decades-long islet dispute as Russia has been strengthening its control of the islands by building new infrastructure and expanding military drills," the report said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori had a summit in the Siberian city of Irkutsk in 2001, upon the end of which they reached agreement on continuing talks on the problems related to the signing of a bilateral peace treaty.

A statement Putin and Mori signed then spoke of the two sides’ consent to speeding up the process so that they could attain an accord through a solution of the problem of ownership of the Southern Kurile islands.

On July 20, 2015, Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters Kremlin officials did not know yet when Putin could visit Japan.

"There are no firmly fixed dates at the moment," he said. "But Russia has always been open for any contacts, all the more so with the close neighbors like Japan."

Moscow and Tokyo are bound by a big enough volume of trade, Peskov said. He admitted however that economic relations between the two countries had shrunk over the past twelve months.

"Nonetheless, this calls for a stepping up of dialogue at various levels," he said.

Nikkei business daily said earlier on Tuesday Japan was at the final stage of coordination of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to Russia, due to be held at the end of August.

In the course of the trip to Moscow, Kishida will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov.

According to the paper, discussion of the ‘northern territories’ problem will be a central issue at the talks in Moscow that will supposedly be held on August 30-31.

Another important issue will be President Putin’s visit to Japan before the end of the year.

Officials in Moscow view Kishida’s forthcoming trip as an important element of preparations for the presidential visit to Tokyo.

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