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Japan’s new foreign minister calls for talks with Lavrov 'as soon as possible'

Japan’s new trade minister will work to elaborate the plan of cooperation with Russia

TOKYO, September 11. /TASS/. Japan’s new foreign minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, has called for a soonest meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to focus on the peace treaty issues, Motegi told Japanese reporters on Wednesday.

"I have instructions to work toward a resolution that is acceptable to both countries. I want to hold a discussion with Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov as soon as possible," Motegi said, cited by Kyodo news agency.

After reshuffling the government on Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that Tokyo would be forging ties with Moscow in a wide range of fields. He expressed hope that Motegi would make "full use of his negotiating skills." Prior to his appointment, Motegi had been a top negotiator in trade talks with the United States.

Russia and Japan have been in talks to sign a peace treaty since the mid-20th century. The main stumbling block to achieving the goal is the ownership issue over the Southern Kuril Islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan. After the end of World War II, the Kuril Islands were incorporated into the Soviet Union. However, the ownership of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan islands and the Habomai Islands has been challenged by Japan. Tokyo frequently submits protests to Moscow amid Russia’s activity in the Southern Kurils. In the meantime, the Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly stressed that Russia’s ownership of these islands is fixed in international legal documents and cannot be doubted.

Hopes set on Japan's new trade minister

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered new Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Isshu Sugawara to work on the details of the plan of Japanese-Russian cooperation.

"Apart from other things, I received the order from the prime minister to work to elaborate the plan of Japanese-Russian economic cooperation," Sugawara said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Speaking at a press conference on the reshuffling in the government earlier on Wednesday, Abe expressed hope that Sugawara would apply his professional experience to boost economic relations with Russia.

In 2016, a special position — minister for economic cooperation with Russia — was created in Japan’s government. It was assigned to the then Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko. On this post Seko took active part in the Japanese-Russian economic dialogue and was a permanent guest at the Eastern Economic Forum. Sugawara received both the position of Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry and supervisory control over the development of economic relations with Russia.

Sugawara, aged 57, was elected to the key lower chamber of the Japanese government six times. He graduated from Waseda University and worked for more than 10 years in Sojitz, one of Japan’s largest trade corporations. He also served as Director of the Economy, Trade and Industry Division of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Senior Vice Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan.