Obuchi to send envoy to meet Putin

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi will send former Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Muneo Suzuki to Moscow next week as his special envoy for talks with Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin, the top government spokesman said Friday.

The talks between Suzuki and Putin, scheduled for Tuesday, are aimed at “conveying the prime minister’s ideas on how he wants to proceed with Japan-Russia ties,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki told a news conference.

A schedule for a meeting between Obuchi and Putin is also expected to be discussed in the Moscow talks.

Japan has urged Putin to schedule a visit to Japan before the July summit of the Group of Eight major nations, in a bid to get stalled peace treaty negotiations between the two countries going again. Obuchi has also hinted that he would consider visiting Russia for the talks.

The two countries have vowed to resolve a territorial dispute and conclude a peace treaty by the end of this year.

The dispute concerns the islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai group of islets, all located off the northeastern coast of Hokkaido. They were seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II.