Diplomats from Japan and Russia met on Friday to have an initial discussion on the four disputed islands north of Hokkaido. The meeting between Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov is expected to lay the foundation for further discussion when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet on February 8.
Talking at the preliminary meeting, Sugiyama stated that Japan “would like to have candid consultation (with Russia) on important issues such as the settlement of the Northern Territories and conclusion of a peace treaty. Morgulov, meanwhile said that they “intend to discuss history” of the territorial issue. Japan has been laying claims on four Russian-held islands near Hokkaido, which they call Northern Territories. Russia, on the other hand, has been maintaining that the Southern Kurils islands were procured as a result of World War II. The dispute has hindered the two nations from finalizing a post-war treaty. Japan expressed immediate readiness to take over the disputed islands should Russia recognize their claim. However, the former Soviet Union has not shown any yielding to the assertion. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida expressed high hopes regarding the meeting, saying that he expects both to have a “constructive discussion” on the issue.
Part of the preliminary meeting’s agenda is also to consider economic and cultural exchanges between the two nations, as well as regional concerns on the threat of Iran and North Korea. Abe is expected to talk with Putin when he visits Sochi for the opening of the Winter Olympics, while Putin is also scheduled to visit Japan sometime this year.
[via Ria Novosti]