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Council for joint economic operations on Southern Kuril Islands set up in Japan

The Southern Kuril range consists of the islands of Kunashir, Iturup and Shikotan and the Habomai archipelago

TOKYO, February 7. /TASS/. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan told a news conference on Tuesday a council for joint economic operations with Russia on the Southern Kuril Islands had been set up in Japan.

He told reporters he would stand at the head of the entity personally.

Hiroshige Seko, a deputy minister of economy, commerce and industry who supervises economic cooperation with Russia in the government, will be deputy head of the council while representatives of other departments concerned high rank officials from the finance, agriculture and fishing industry ministries will take seats on it, well-informed sources told TASS.

"We hope to get down to tackling the problems of joint economic operations on the islands through the efforts of our entire government," Kishida said at the news conference.

Sources also indicated the council will consider concrete projects of cooperation in the area of Southern Kurils, including fisheries, seafood farming, tourism, and nature conservation. Along with it, this cooperation should not call into question Russia and Japan's fundamental positions as regards the sovereignty over the islands.

Russia and Japan reached agreement on a start of consultations on joint economic operations on the Southern Kurils upon the end of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Japan on in the middle of last December. The first round of the consultations at the level of deputy foreign ministers is to take place in Tokyo next month.

Moscow made first attempts to reach arrangements on joint economic activity on Southern Kuril Islands at the end of the 1990's but they encountered Japan's reluctance to agree to putting this type of cooperation on the basis of Russian legislation.

The Southern Kuril range consists of the islands of Kunashir, Iturup and Shikotan and the Habomai archipelago.