TOKYO, September 29. /TASS/. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday that he wishes to iron out the two countries’ territorial issue.
"I told [Putin] that I don’t want to pass the problem of the ownership of the Northern Territories [Japan’s term for the Southern Kuril Islands - TASS] to the next generation and I plan to solve it," Suga told reporters.
The new Japanese prime minister also stressed that he wished to "fully develop Japanese-Russian relations." Besides, according to Suga, the two leaders agreed to soon hold a personal meeting to discuss these issues.
Earlier, the Kyodo news agency reported that for the first time since assuming the office of the Japanese head of government on September 16, Suga had a phone conversation with Putin.
The premier already held phone conversations with a number of foreign leaders, including US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The new chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan Yoshihide Suga, who formerly served as the Chief Cabinet Secretary, was approved as the new prime minister on September 16. The majority of lawmakers from both houses of parliament backed him.
Russia and Japan have been in talks to sign a peace treaty since the mid-20th century. The main stumbling block to achieving this 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. The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly said that Russia’s sovereignty over these islands, which is committed to paper in international documents, cannot be called in question.