Aso-Medvedev huddle on isles disappoints

by Jun Hongo

ROME — Tokyo and Moscow failed Thursday to make progress on a territorial dispute over Russian-held islands off Hokkaido in a meeting one Foreign Ministry official called a disappointment.

Speaking with Prime Minister Taro Aso on the sidelines of the Group of Eight meeting in L’Aquila, Italy, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev proposed stepping up and accelerating talks on the sovereignty of Kunashiri, Etorofu and Shikotan islands and the Habomai islets.

But the Russian president fell far short of advancing tangible proposals to resolve the stalemate, only offering assurances that he is ready to continue top-level discussions.

“There were comprehensive talks from Moscow on its view of the issue, but specific approaches to resolve the dispute were not mentioned,” a Foreign Ministry official told reporters after the meeting. “Unfortunately, the contents of our discussion today were unsatisfactory.”

Aso informed Medvedev that economic cooperation with Russia can only take place in step with progress on the territorial row, according to the official.