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TOKYO, December 19. /TASS/. Some 59% of Japanese citizens support the idea of carrying out a joint economic activity on the South Kuril Islands before the territorial dispute with Russia is solved, an opinion poll published by the Mainichi newspaper showed on Monday.
Another 25% of respondents oppose the idea. The figure is even higher (72%) among those who support the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, says the survey conducted on December 17-18.
However, among those who oppose the government’s policy the number of supporters of the idea is higher than the opponents - 46% against 39%.
Besides, 60% of respondents voiced hope that there will be progress in solving the territorial dispute, while 29% have no such expectations.
After Vladimir Putin’s two-day visit to Japan, the leaders of the two countries adopted a joint statement noting that "the start of consultations on joint economic activity of Russia and Japan on the South Kuril Islands may become an important step towards signing a peace treaty." Besides, the parties consider that the statement and any agreements reached on its basis on establishing joint economic activity and its implementation "cause no damage the positions of Russia and Japan on the peace treaty issue."
Since mid-20th century, Russia and Japan have been negotiating a peace treaty after World War II. The main stumbling block to this is the issue of the ownership of the South 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. Russia’s 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 gesture of good will 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 South Kuril Islands.