National / Politics

Russia invites Abe to attend WWII anniversary event in Moscow in May

Kyodo

Russia has extended an invitation to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to attend a ceremony in Moscow next May on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, a source close to Japan-Russia relations said Sunday.

But given Japan’s continued sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis, the source said, “At the moment, it has not been decided whether Prime Minister Abe will accept the invitation.”

“It’s ultimately the decision of the premier” who received a letter of invitation sometime in or after summer, according to the source.

If Abe accepts, he may meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who was also invited by Russia to attend the celebration, the source said.

Abe is expected to carefully assess whether he will attend the ceremony, which is held in Moscow every year on May 9, bearing in mind the possible repercussions on the planned visit of Putin to Japan and efforts to find a solution to the long-stalled bilateral territorial issue, the source said.

Meeting in November in Beijing, Abe agreed with Putin to begin preparations for the Russian leader to visit Japan at a time “suitable next year.”

Abe had agreed with Putin in Sochi in February for the latter’s visit to Japan last fall but the plan fell through after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s southern region of Crimea in March, and Japan joined the United States and European nations in imposing sanctions on Moscow.

When events marking the 60th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany were held in May 2005, world leaders at the time, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, U.S. President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao attended.

For next year, Russia has invited other leaders such as South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is most likely to attend, the source said.

The source, meanwhile, has left open the possibility of contact between Abe and Kim while in Moscow, saying it depends on the development in the Ukraine crisis and progress in North Korea’s reinvestigation of the long-standing issue of Pyongyang’s abductions of Japanese citizens decades ago.

Japan sent a delegation to Pyongyang in October to check the current state of North Korea’s abduction probe and tell Pyongyang that the abduction issue is a top priority for Japan.