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TOKYO, December 19. /TASS/. The issue of concluding a peace treaty with Russia is not an easy one, but a step forward was made during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Japan, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Monday.
"[The issue] of signing a peace treaty, which has not been solved for more than 70 years, is not easy, but at least one step has been made," Suga said.
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.