Noda eyes Mori as Russia isles envoy


Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda wants to send former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori as an envoy to Russia in a bid to make progress in resolving the long-running dispute over Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, a former Lower House member said.

Muneo Suzuki, once a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker convicted of bribery, told reporters after meeting with Noda that he suggested that Mori, who has close ties with President-elect Vladimir Putin, be sent to Russia. Noda reportedly told Suzuki: “I’m thinking about that, too.”

Mori, of the LDP, now the main opposition party, would visit Russia before the Group of Eight summit in mid-May and meet with Putin, who will return to the presidency May 7, according to Suzuki.

A meeting between Noda and Putin is being arranged on the sidelines of the G-8 summit at the U.S. presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, on May 18 to 19.

When Mori was prime minister, he signed a statement with Putin during a 2001 summit in Irkutsk to confirm the validity of the 1956 Japan-Soviet Union Joint Declaration, which stipulates Moscow would return two of the four islands — Shikotan and the Habomai islets group — to Japan after a peace treaty is concluded.