TOKYO, December 7. /TASS/. Tokyo expects to continue a constructive dialogue with Moscow on joint economic activities on the southern Kuril Islands, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said at a press conference on Tuesday.
"We expect to continue constructive consultations with Russia on the matter," he pointed out. At the same time, Hayashi stressed that Russia’s plans to establish a custom-free zone on the islands and "active calls on Japanese companies and companies from third countries to take part in the economic development" of those territories ran counter to the Japanese government’s position on "the four northern islands" (which is what the southern Kuril islands are called in Japan). "In particular, [they run counter] to the agreements that the two countries’ leaders reached on the joint economic activities on the four northern islands," the Japanese top diplomat said, adding that Tokyo had repeatedly conveyed its position to Moscow.
Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin handed down instructions to prepare amendments on a package of benefits and incentives for businesses active on the Kuril Islands, including exemption from profit, property, land, and transport taxes. The amendments are planned to be adopted by August 1, 2022.
For decades, Moscow and Tokyo have been holding consultations in order to clinch a peace treaty as a follow-up to World War II. The southern Kuril Islands issue remains the key sticking point. In 1945, the whole archipelago was handed over to the Soviet Union. Tokyo laid claims to Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and a group of uninhabited islands. The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly stated that Moscow’s sovereignty over the islands is enshrined in international law and cannot be called into question.
After Putin's visit to Japan in December 2016 and his meetings with then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a joint statement was adopted saying that the launch of consultations on joint economic activities on the southern Kuril Islands might be an important step towards concluding a peace treaty. The two countries continue consultations on joint economic activities on five tracks, including aquaculture, greenhouse farming, tourism, wind energy and waste management.