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Tokyo says no change in stance on Putin’s visit to Japan

July 24, 2015, 8:53 UTC+3 TOKYO
"We assessing the current situation and concurrent factors," Japanese government's top spokesman says
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Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

© Alexei Nikolsky/RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

TOKYO, July 24. /TASS/. Tokyo’s position on a planned visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Japan later this year has not changed, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference on Friday.

"As far as the Russian president’s visit is concerned, the Japanese government’s stance has not changed and we are assessing the current situation and concurrent factors," Suga, who serves as the government's top spokesman, said in response to a question about whether Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s possible trip to the Kuril Islands could affect preparations for the Russian leader’s visit to Japan.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry's Foreign Policy Bureau told TASS earlier that Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida had forwarded through the Japanese Embassy in Moscow a request to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, asking him to cancel his visit to the disputed islands in Russia's Far East — known as the Southern Kuriles in Russia and as the Northern Territories in Japan.

In a statement sent to Medvedev through the embassy, Kishida said: "If the trip [by Medvedev] takes place, this will run counter to Japan’s position on the issue of the four northern islands and will hurt the feelings of the Japanese people."

The ministry also said that a similar request had been forwarded to the Russian Foreign Ministry, asking the Russian premier not to visit the territories claimed by Japan.

Last week, the Nikkei business daily reported Japan was in the final stage of negotiating Kishida’s visit to Russia in late August.

Kishida is due to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, the newspaper said. The trip, which is expected to take place on August 30-31, is aimed at discussing the countries’ conflicting claims over the Kuril Islands alongside organising Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Japan before the end of the year.

The Nikkei said that a delegation of industry representatives would join the Japanese foreign minister on his trip to Russia. The Japanese government is currently negotiating the issue with representatives from energy, healthcare and agriculture industries, it said. The delegation is expected to include executives of ten various companies, the report said.

Japan’s top diplomat has not yet officially announced his trip to Russia. "As far as my visit to Moscow is concerned, nothing has been determined so far. Tokyo proceeds from the agreement reached and makes every effort to organize Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Japan this year at any convenient time," Kishida told a news conference on July 14.

Kishida’s visit to Russia was originally planned for last spring. However, the plans were not fulfilled due to events in Ukraine and Tokyo’s joining Western sanctions against Russia. This trip is considered as a very important part of preparations for the Russian president’s visit to Japan.

Tokyo has not confirmed its timeframe since last year, although it sent a respective invitation to Moscow a long time ago.

In early July, the Japanese government sent to Moscow Hajime Hayashi, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s European Affairs Bureau, to discuss plans for Kishida’s trip to Russia. Tokyo said the aim was to create a favorable atmosphere for Putin’s visit to Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after a summit of the Group of Seven industrial powers in Germany on June 8 that he hoped Putin would travel to Japan this year. Media later reported that the Russian leader’s visit was due to take place in December.

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