LONDON, April 29. /TASS/. Japan and Russia will not be able to sign a peace treaty until trust-based relations are built between the two peoples, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a press conference in London.
"As far as signing a peace treaty goes, the most important thing is the trust between the peoples," he said. "If there is no trust, then we will not be able to find a mutually acceptable decision," Abe added saying that it wasn’t normal that the two countries had be unable to sign a peace treaty for more than 70 years. According to the Japanese prime minister, in order to build trust, the parties "will expand exchanges between the four northern islands, Hokkaido, Sakhalin and the entire Far East, as well as implement the eight-point plan" which Japan had put forward in May 2016.
Abe also said that the lack of a peace treaty had been hampering bilateral cooperation. However, in his words, in December 2016, when the Russian president visited Japan, the parties agreed to try and solve this issue.
When speaking about his recent visit to Moscow, the Japanese prime minister said that "the two countries have made an important step towards implementing the plan concerning joint economic activities" on the South Kuril Islands and providing the former residents of the islands with an opportunity to travel there. "In order to start joint economic activities, we will sent a group of government officials and businessmen there in late May," Abe said adding that in June, former residents would be able to travel to the islands of Kunashir and Iturup by plane.
Russia and Japan have been holding consultations since the mid-20th century in order to clinch a peace treaty as a follow-up to World War II. The Kuril Islands issue remains the sticking point since after WWII the islands were handed over to the Soviet Union while Japan has laid claims to the four southern islands.
In 1956, the two countries signed a common declaration on ending the state of war and restoring diplomatic and all other relations, but the islands issue was not solved. At the same time, the Soviet Union expressed readiness to hand the Shikotan and Habomai islands over to Japan as a gesture of goodwill but the plan was never implemented.