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TOKYO, January 8. /TASS/. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to visit Russia in early 2017. On Sunday, the prime minister had a meeting with allies in the Yamaguchi Prefecture, where on December 15, 2016, he received Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
"Having the firm intention to settle (the problem of belonging of the southern Kuril Islands and of signing a peace treaty) within this generation, we hope (to apply) every effort for negotiations," Kyodo quoted the prime minister as saying. "For that, early this year I want to visit Russia."
The NHK television channel showed earlier on Sunday Abe expressing the opinion the joint economic activities in the southern Kuril Islands may be "a big advantage on the way towards a peace treaty," adding without relations of mutual trust settling the problem would not be possible.
On December 20, 2016, while speaking on the territorial dispute, the Japanese premier said "without following a new approach there can be no final solution to the problem." "The development of economic relations is a short way to solve the peace treaty issue that demands time," he added.
Russia and Japan have no peace treaty signed after World War II. The settlement of this problem inherited by Russia’s diplomacy from the Soviet Union is hampered by the years-long dispute over the four islands of Russia’s Southern Kuril Islandss - Shikotan, Habomai, Iturup and Kunashir, which Japan calls its northern territories.
After World War II, in September 1945, Japan signed its surrender, and in February 1946, the Kuril Islands were declared territories of the Soviet Union. In 1956, the USSR and Japan signed a Joint Declaration thus re-establishing bilateral diplomatic, trade and other kinds of relations after World War II. According to the document, the USSR unilaterally expressed readiness to return the Shikotan and Hamobai islands as a gesture of good will, but only after signing a peace treaty.
According to the joint statement signed by Putin and Abe in December 2016, the parties "reached an understanding that the start of consultations on a joint economic activity of Russia and Japan in the Southern Kuril Islands may become an important step towards the conclusion of a peace treaty."
The parties proceed from the fact that the statement, any progress made on the basis of the agreement on development of joint economic activities and its implementation "do not pose damage the positions of Russia and Japan on the issue of a peace treaty."
"The two leaders have agreed to advance the negotiations on joint economic activities on the islands, and also expressed their sincere determination to resolve the problem of a peace treaty," the joint statement reads.