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TOKYO, July 8. /TASS/. Japan's government says the trip of the country's delegation of officials and businesses to South Kuril Islands on June 27 - July 1 would favor greatly signing of a peace treaty with Russia, Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko said in an interview with TASS on Saturday.
"Between June 27 and July 1, a Japanese delegation for the first time made research related to the cooperation on the four islands," the minister said. "This trip complied with agreements on the top level; from the point of details for the cooperation, this trip was very fruitful in terms of its objectives, scales and contents."
"A direct impact on improvement of trust and understanding (between Japan and Russia - TASS) has the fact that we continue discussions about joint cooperation, without affecting each other's positions, and the Japanese and Russians are working together on future of the four islands," he said. "I am confident, this favors signing of the peace treaty, and leaders of our countries confirm this."
"During this research, we received information, including opinions of our experts, our partners," he continued. "Based on this data, we shall analyze thoroughly what projects could be implemented without conflicting legal positions of the countries, and still picking the projects which we shall promote first of all."
Besides, the minister said, "on July 7, leaders of our countries touched upon this topic."
"As for the Japanese side, we shall study results of that trip at the upcoming meeting of the Council on cooperation, which will feature Foreign Minister [Fumio] Kushida," he said. "We shall analyze the received information and shall continue working on the projects."
Japanese delegation’s visit
The delegation featured members of the Japanese government office, officials from the Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, as well as from the Hokkaido Prefecture. They visited 64 facilities, including hospitals, electric power plants, sports centers, as well as a hotel complex under construction.
On December 15-16, 2016, the Russian president visited Japan for the first in eleven years. The peace treaty issue and the South Kuril Islands issue topped the agenda, while bilateral cooperation was also discussed. Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe adopted a joint statement saying that consultations on joint economic activities on the South Kuril Islands could become an important step on the way to a peace treaty.
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.