ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA – Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday he wants to conclude a postwar peace treaty with Japan but that the process is challenging due to Tokyo’s military cooperation with Washington.
Speaking in a meeting with news agencies, Putin said Japan needs to take heed of Russia’s security concerns, although he acknowledged it has the right to defend itself.
Putin made the remarks ahead of his planned summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Osaka later this month, dampening expectations for a breakthrough in ongoing talks on a treaty and a long-standing territorial dispute over the sovereignty of four Russian-held islands off the coast of Hokkaido.
Abe initially hoped for a broad agreement with Putin on securing the return of at least the two smaller islands when he hosts the G20 summit. But rounds of bilateral talks have failed to bridge differences over the territorial dispute that has prevented Tokyo and Moscow from signing a peace treaty.
Putin said the two nations should build trust before a decision on such an issue can be made.
Japan maintains that the former Soviet Union illegally seized the islands following Tokyo’s surrender in World War II. Russia, meanwhile, claims the seizure was a legitimate outcome of the war. The islands are called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia.
Russia has been concerned about the U.S. military presence in Japan and the prospect of a dispatch of troops to one of the disputed islands if any are returned.
Touching on Moscow’s worries, Putin drew a comparison with ongoing work to build a replacement facility for a key U.S. military base in Okinawa, with opposition from its governor and local residents failing to stop it.
He said his country’s national security will be affected if a U.S. military facility is built elsewhere in Japan.
Putin also covered other topics in the meeting attended by representatives of news agencies.
As tensions have risen between Russia and the United States over arms control, Putin said the United States’ exit from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and its decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987 have “undermined the basics” of the international security architecture.
Regarding the New START treaty that is set to expire in February 2021, Putin said Russia is ready to extend it. He is expected to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
Signed in 2010, the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms seeks to limit the possession of deployed nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers.