Territorial row to get fresh look after Putin’s inauguration

Kyodo

Japan and Russia have agreed to take further steps to resolve their territorial dispute regarding islands off Hokkaido after Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin is sworn into office in May.

Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, vowed to cooperate on the issue Wednesday during bilateral talks on the sidelines of a Group of Eight foreign ministers meeting, Japanese officials said.

Tokyo and Moscow have been at odds over the sovereignty of Etorofu, Kunashiri and Shikotan islands and the Habomai islets off north Hokkaido since Soviet forces seized them after Japan’s surrender in World War II on Aug. 15, 1945. The dispute prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Putin, who will be sworn in May 7, are likely to hold bilateral talks when they attend a G-8 summit at the Camp David U.S. presidential retreat in mid-May.

Genba and Lavrov also exchanged views on North Korea’s imminent rocket launch, the officials said.