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Japanese top diplomat says Russia, Japan fail to overcome differences at Moscow meeting

Taro Kono confirmed that Tokyo was ready to maintain dialogue with Moscow to resolve differences

MOSCOW, May 10. /TASS/. Moscow and Tokyo have failed to overcome differences on the peace treaty issue at the Moscow meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers, Japanese top diplomat Taro Kono said following talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Friday.

"I can’t say that we managed to overcome differences at today’s talks but we have firmly decided that building a true partnership through resolving this complicated issue is in our strategic interests. This is why we meet so often and spare no effort to hold discussions," he said.

"We have agreed not to disclose the details of the talks so I won’t say anything in this regard. As for our differences, I always clarify our position to our partners," Taro Kono went on to say. "This time, just like at our February meetings, it came down to harsh statements but this is not the first meeting between Minister Lavrov and me, we have trust-based relations that allow us to talk frankly with each other," he added.

The Japanese foreign minister confirmed that Tokyo was ready to maintain dialogue with Moscow to resolve differences.


Peace treaty issue


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 sticking point since after WWII the islands were handed over to the Soviet Union while Japan laid claims to the four southern islands. In 1956, the two countries signed a joint declaration on ending the state of war and restoring diplomatic and all other relations, however, a peace treaty has still not been reached. Moscow has stated many times that Russia’s sovereignty over the islands cannot be called into question.

On November 14, 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 speed up peace treaty talks based on the 1956 declaration. The two countries’ foreign ministers, Sergey Lavrov and Taro Kono, oversee the negotiations conducted by their deputies, Igor Morgulov and Takeo Mori.

The Joint Declaration said that the Soviet government was ready to hand Shikotan Island and a group of small islands over to Japan, adding that Tokyo would get actual control of the islands after 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.