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TOKYO, January 20. /TASS/. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will pay a visit to Russia without delay for further progress in the issue of a peace treaty, he said at the opening of the national parliament's plenary session on Friday.
"I shall pay a visit to Russia this year without delay in order to use the convenient occasion," he said, adding "settlement of the territory issue, which continues for more than 70 years now, is not easy."
The prime minister promised "to move step by step towards signing of a peace treaty."
On Wednesday, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said at a meeting with Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko, who is also in charge of economic relations with Russia, that Russia plans to receive Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe twice this year.
"We face a very challenging task because outcomes of the visit of the Russian president to Japan are excellent, but we have to work out two visits of Japan’s prime minister this year - in April and September. This is very serious," the Russian official said.
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 Islands - 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.
Abe stressed importance of the "special system" in joint activities with Russia in all the southern Kuril Islands:
"Last month, during the visit of Russia's president to Japan, we shared the sincere inclination to settle problems," he told the national parliament on Friday. "We have agreed to begin talks in order to have joint activities on all the four northern islands in the framework of a "special system", and agreed that former residents of those islands would be able to visit freely the native places and the graves."
"And in the framework of the new approach we made an important step on the way towards reaching a peace treaty," the prime minister said.
Improvement of the relations between Japan and Russia is of big importance for security in North-Eastern Asia, Shinzo Abe has added:
"For maintaining the security in North-Eastern Asia, improvement of (Japan’s) relations with Russia is extremely important. "However, 70 years after World War II was over, our countries still do not have a peace treaty, which is an abnormal situation."