Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori is expected to travel to Russia this month to meet with President Vladimir Putin and lay the groundwork for territorial negotiations expected to be conducted when Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda goes there later in December, several Japanese sources said Monday.
The government is hopeful that Mori will play a useful role in helping smooth out the two countries’ differences over the territorial issue. The influential politician of the Liberal Democratic Party who worked with Putin when he was prime minister is known to have close personal ties with the Russian president.
During his talks with Putin in Russia in July, Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba conveyed Tokyo’s wish to send Mori as an envoy to the country. Putin welcomed the proposal.
As prime minister in March 2001, Mori signed the Irkutsk Declaration, the first written confirmation of the validity of a 1956 Japan-Soviet document stating that two of the four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido claimed by Japan — Shikotan and the Habomais — will be handed over to Japan after a bilateral peace treaty is signed.