To maintain momentum in recent improvements in Tokyo-Moscow ties, Japan’s new prime minister is invited to take the place of the resigning Ryutaro Hashimoto on a planned visit to Russia this fall, Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko said Tuesday.

Speaking at the Japan National Press Club, Kiriyenko reaffirmed that bilateral relations will remain intact despite changes in the political scene. “Dynamic expansion of bilateral relations will continue,” Kiriyenko said.

Kiriyenko, who arrived Monday in Tokyo for a two-day visit, said he did not discuss the proposed bilateral peace treaty with Japan’s political leaders during his stay, but added that a breakthrough can be achieved if the two countries take a step-by-step approach based on the 1993 Tokyo Declaration.

The declaration, signed by President Boris Yeltsin and then-Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, says the two countries will try to resolve their bilateral territorial row on the basis of the principles of law and justice.

The two countries have yet to sign a peace treaty because of the dispute over Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islets, which were seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II.

Kiriyenko said he does not think Japan’s policies toward Russia will change, because bilateral relations have a strong foundation. He meanwhile welcomed achievements made during his visit on bilateral economic cooperation, such as the signing of a memorandum on an investment-protection treaty and an agreement on the basic concept of a joint-investment company.

He stressed that energy cooperation between the two countries in Russia’s Far East is beneficial, saying such cooperation will contribute to energy security in the Asia-Pacific region, where energy demand is expected to increase substantially.

As for assistance by international financial institutions for Russia’s economic crisis, Kiriyenko said Russia needs to balance its budget in addition to receiving such help.

In a joint press statement, Japan and Russia welcome a basic consensus on the bilateral investment protection agreement. On Monday, Russian Ambassador to Japan Alexander Panov and Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi signed a note to accelerate efforts toward the official signing of the agreement.

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