TOKYO, February 25. /TASS/. The government of Japan works on the issue of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Tokyo, but the exact date of his visit is still a subject for the final approval, the Japanese Foreign Ministry announced to TASS on Monday.
"We have agreed that special envoys of the leaders of our countries will hold a meeting in the near future, and after their talks we will promptly approve the date of the visit of Russian Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov to Japan to hold another round of [peace treaty] negotiations at the level of foreign ministers," the Japanese Foreign Ministry stated.
"The exact agenda of the planned meeting will be drafted via diplomatic channels," the ministry added.
Russia’s top diplomat Lavrov and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono met for talks the previous time on February 16 in Germany during the 55th Munich Security Conference.
Following their meeting, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced at a press conference in Tokyo that there was a frank, though sometimes heated, exchange of views between the Japanese and Russian foreign ministers.
At their February 16 meeting, Lavrov and Kono agreed that their deputies Igor Morgulov and Takeo Mori would hold consultations on the peace treaty issue in the coming weeks. The Japanese top diplomat later announced that Lavrov’s visit to Tokyo was being considered.
Russia-Japan peace treaty disagreements
Since the mid-20th century, Russia and Japan have been holding consultations in order to clinch a peace treaty as a follow-up to World War II. The Kuril Islands issue remains the key sticking point since after WWII the islands were handed over to the Soviet Union while Japan laid claims to the four southern islands.
In November 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Singapore and agreed that the two countries would accelerate the pace of the peace negotiations based on the 1956 Joint Declaration. The document ended the state of war and said that the Soviet government was ready to hand Shikotan Island and a group of small islands called Habomai over to Japan on condition that Tokyo would take control of them once a peace treaty was signed.
However, after Japan and the United States had signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security in 1960, the Soviet Union withdrew its obligation to hand over the islands. A Soviet government’s memorandum dated January 27, 1960, said that those islands would only be handed over to Japan if all foreign troops were pulled out of the country.
Russia has pointed out on numerous occasions that the document does not clarify handover conditions and thus required further clarification.