Prime Minister Shinzo Abe left for Russia on Sunday for talks with President Vladimir Putin, on the first leg of a weeklong trip that will also take him to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.
Abe is the first prime minister in 10 years to officially visit Russia. The summit with Putin on Monday is the latest effort to restart stalled talks on a territorial dispute that has prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty ending World War II.
Abe said at Haneda airport before his departure that he hopes to “build personal trust with Putin” and “make the visit an opportunity to restart the stalled bilateral talks for a peace treaty.”
Abe has said he will show “political will” at the meeting to revive the negotiations over four Russian-controlled islands off Hokkaido claimed by Japan. Officials in both countries, however, have suggested the leaders’ talks will not immediately lead to a breakthrough.
They will also focus on deepening economic ties between the two countries, with Japanese companies hoping to play larger roles in energy development and other projects in the Russian Far East. Over 100 business leaders are accompanying Abe on his trip.
In the Middle East, where some Japanese firms hold oil field development rights, Abe will seek agreements to secure energy resources in the area at lower cost, while promoting the export of such Japanese technology as medical and railway systems to the developing world.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the top two providers of crude oil to Japan.
Efforts to secure cheaper energy imports come as Japanese utilities have boosted thermal power generation to cover the loss of nuclear energy following the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant. This, along with the 20 percent Abenomics-driven dive in the yen’s value, has increased the cost of fuel imports, weighing on the earnings of power companies as well as on the country’s trade balance.
In Turkey, Abe, who wants Japan to return to nuclear power, is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two governments are expected to sign agreements for Japanese firms to cooperate in building atomic power plants in Turkey. Abe will return home Saturday.