Hashimoto ready to visit Russia in ’97

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto expressed willingness June 10 to visit Russia this year in response to an invitation from President Boris Yeltsin, Foreign Ministry officials said.

The invitation was conveyed in a letter from Yeltsin delivered to Hashimoto by Boris Nemtsov, Russia’s first deputy prime minister. Hashimoto told Nemtsov he was honored to receive the invitation and will formally respond when he meets Yeltsin next week in Denver at the annual summit of the Group of Seven industrial nations, plus Russia, the officials said.

Hashimoto told Nemtsov he is looking forward to discussing with Yeltsin ways to achieve “dynamic” improvement of bilateral relations into the 21st century, according to the officials. Yeltsin told Hashimoto in the letter that the two leaders should meet regularly at least once a year.

Tokyo has refused to sign a peace treaty with Russia to declare a formal end to World War II because of the territorial dispute over four islands off Hokkaido. Later in the day, Nemtsov said at the Japan National Press Club that Hashimoto’s response to Yeltsin’s invitation was favorable.

Nemtsov said that Hashimoto even told him he hopes to spend a holiday with Yeltsin when he visits Russia. “Personal relationships (between leaders) is sometimes more effective than negotiations over a number of years” in resolving difficult issues, Nemtsov said. He said Yeltsin is promoting a multilateral approach in external policies, seeking to deepen ties with China and the Asia-Pacific region as well as the United States and Europe.