Japan and Russia have agreed in principle to schedule an official visit to Japan by Russian President Vladimir Putin from Sept. 3 to 6, several sources close to the Japanese government said Saturday.
It is expected that Foreign Minister Yohei Kono and his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, will officially set the date for Putin’s visit when they hold talks during the Group of Eight foreign ministers’ meeting in Miyazaki on July 12 and 13, the sources said.
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori hopes the envisaged meeting with Putin will help the two nations to resolve a long-standing dispute over Russian-held islands off Hokkaido and make way for the signing of a bilateral peace treaty by the end of the year, they said.
Putin will be the first Russian president to visit Japan since Boris Yeltsin did so in April 1998.
The sources said diplomatic officials between the two nations are still discussing the details of Putin’s visit, but the Russian leader is expected to meet with the Emperor and business leaders, in addition to holding talks with Mori.
It is unlikely that Putin will visit areas outside Tokyo during the four-day trip, they said. After the visit, Putin will head for New York to attend the U.N. Millennium Summit. Putin plans to visit Japan to participate in the July 21-23 G8 summit, but the two nations share the understanding that bilateral issues will wait until Putin’s official visit.
Mori and Putin agreed in St. Petersburg in April to make efforts to have Putin visit Japan in late August.
Tokyo and Moscow established diplomatic ties in 1956, but the territorial row has prevented them from concluding a peace treaty.
Senior Russian officials have repeatedly suggested it is impossible to conclude a peace treaty by the end of this year due to a wide gap between the two countries on how to resolve the dispute.