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TOKYO, February 1. /TASS/. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday he wanted to pay a visit to Russia as soon as possible.
"I would like to visit Russia as early as possible this year," Abe said during debates in the budgetary commission of the Japanese parliament’s lower chamber.
He reiterated that for the first time ever Russia and Japan will carry out joint economic activities at Russia’s four Kuril Islands, disputed by Tokyo.
"Due to this activity we will be able to strengthen mutual understanding and trust, and it will be a great advantage in our path toward signing a peace treaty," the prime minister said.
Russia and Japan have been in talks to sign a peace treaty since the middle of last century. The main stumbling block to this is the issue of the ownership of the South Kuril Islands. After the end of World War II the Kuril Islands were incorporated into the Soviet Union. However, the ownership of the Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and 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, however no peace treaty has been signed until now.
The first visit of the Russian president to Japan in 11 years, which took place on December 15-16, 2016, was devoted to the peace treaty and the Southern Kuril Islands issue, as well as bilateral economic cooperation.
After the meetings, Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe adopted a joint statement noting that an important step towards signing the peace treaty could be launching consultations on the joint economic activity of Russia and Japan on the Southern Kuril Islands.