• Kyodo


Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Thursday that the Japanese leader will visit Russia either in December or January for talks aimed at reactivating bilateral dialogue, Japanese government officials said.

Koizumi and Putin, meeting in the Canadian Rockies resort of Kananaskis, Alberta, on the sidelines of a two-day Group of Eight summit, also agreed to create an action plan for promoting cooperative ties, to be issued when they meet in Russia.

The two leaders also decided to designate 2003 as Japan Year in Russia and agreed to hold events in St. Petersburg introducing Japan to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the founding of the city, the officials said.

Koizumi also accepted Putin’s invitation extended Wednesday to his G8 counterparts to visit St. Petersburg next May as part of the anniversary events in his hometown.

The prime minister, who was invited to Russia by Putin during their talks on the sidelines of last year’s G8 summit in Genoa, Italy, proposed December or January as the possible timing for his trip, the officials said.

Putin, emphasizing the importance of continuing bilateral summit-level dialogue, renewed his invitation and said Koizumi is welcome to come when it is most convenient during the time frame.

They decided to set a specific itinerary through diplomatic channels and shared the recognition that the bilateral ministerial talks to take place in the near future in Tokyo and Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi’s visit to Russia planned around this fall will pave the way for Koizumi’s trip.

The officials said the action plan is expected to review past relations and set up guidelines for future ties. aimed at promoting cooperation in a wide range of areas, including politics, the economy and culture.

Koizumi and Putin agreed to move forward their peace treaty talks, centering around a long-standing territorial dispute over Russian-held islands north of Hokkaido, from the standpoint that bilateral ties should be developed in various fields.

Koizumi said he wants to approach the negotiations based on achievements made so far, while Putin noted it was unfortunate that the two sides had to inherit the problem from the past, but they will continue dialogue at all levels.

Russia and Japan have quarreled for centuries over the islands of Kunashiri, Etorofu and Shikotan and the Habomai islets, which Soviet troops made the last play on, seizing them at the end of World War II.

Putin said that while bilateral trade and economic ties have become somewhat activated recently, the trade volume between the two countries is decreasing. He attributed the trend to the state of the world economy but expressed confidence that the two nations have the capability to overcome the negative trend.

Regarding the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Putin said he wants to emphasize Russia’s ties with both South and North Korea and on development of the North, the officials said.

He proposed that the two countries have their foreign ministers exchange views regarding the region based on a bilateral agreement to cooperate in the international arena.

Koizumi asked Putin to convey to North Korea that Tokyo is seriously addressing efforts to normalize diplomatic relations with Pyongyang and that the suspected abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea is a very important issue that needs to be resolved.

Putin promised to relay the message to the North, the officials said. He also said he believes North Korea is afraid of opening up the door between the two Koreas due to the huge income gap between the two halves of the peninsula and noted the gap can be narrowed by promoting internationalization and modernization of North Korea.

Koizumi emphasized the importance of making North Korea realize that it would be beneficial to cooperate with the international community, the officials said.

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