Putin to meet Japan’s new chief late in month

Kyodo

Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin will meet with Japan’s new prime minister sometime between April 28 and April 30 at an as yet undecided location outside Moscow, Japanese officials said Tuesday.

In a meeting with Japan’s government emissary, Muneo Suzuki, Putin agreed to an informal meeting with the new Japanese prime minister, who is expected to be named on Wednesday, the officials said.

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi suffered a stroke on Sunday and remains in a coma. His Cabinet resigned earlier Tuesday.

Yoshiro Mori, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is likely to be elected prime minister today at the plenary sessions of both houses of the Diet.

Putin also unveiled his intention to hold bilateral talks in Japan, either after July’s Group of Eight summit in Okinawa Prefecture or during an official visit to Japan this fall, the officials said.

A senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official said Putin’s acceptance of the envisioned bilateral meeting in Tokyo indicates the importance he attaches to relations with Japan.

Suzuki told Putin it is important that the new Japanese prime minister and Putin reconfirm the continuity of policies between the two countries, the Japanese officials said.

Japan and Russia agreed in 1997 to try to resolve the long-standing dispute over Russian-held islands off Hokkaido and conclude a peace treaty this year, but they have failed to narrow their differences over the territorial row.

Putin, who had been acting president after his predecessor Boris Yeltsin suddenly announced his resignation Dec. 31, won the March 26 presidential election.

Suzuki, a former deputy chief Cabinet secretary who was dispatched by Obuchi, arrived in Moscow on Monday for talks with Russian leaders to arrange a possible meeting between the two nations’ leaders prior to the Group of Eight summit, to be held in Okinawa in July.