Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said they are making efforts to ensure that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s upcoming visit to Russia this April will be a chance to reopen stalled talks on the dispute over the Northern Territories, also known as Kuril Islands in Russia. Kishida’s Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov agreed and will do his part that the territorial dispute will be part of the agenda during the meeting between Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kishida and Larov met for bilateral talks two days before the two-day meeting of the Group of Eight foreign ministers. They are in agreement that Abe’s planned visit to Russia, the first by a Japanese foreign minister in 10 years, is crucial towards building a personal relationship between the prime minister and president. The two foreign ministers discussed the territorial negotiations but did not elaborate on the details. The row stems over the four Russian-controlled islands off Hokkaido that Japan is claiming ownership over. Japan said they are open to when, how and on what conditions the islands will be returned to them, while Russia says they are only prepared to return the smaller Shikotan Island and the Habomai islet group but the bigger islands of Etorofu and Kunashiri will remain with them. This territorial dispute has prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty to formally end World War II, so it is imperative that steps towards resolving this should be taken soon.
Part of the meeting also tackled the issue of North Korea and its stirring up tension in the East Asian region. They were in agreement as well that the international community should present a united front and send a strong message to the reclusive state that their actions are unacceptable. When it comes to economic ties, bilateral cooperation over energy development in the Russian Far East and Siberia is the priority right now. No specific schedule has been set for Abe’s visit to Russia, but the two foreign ministers are also scheduling their own trips to visit each other’s country.
[ via Kyodo News ]
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