• Kyodo

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The government has urged the tourism industry to promote sightseeing trips to the Russian Far East as part of efforts to enhance economic cooperation with Russia, industry officials said Wednesday.

The move comes as Tokyo has been seeking progress in negotiations with Moscow over a decades-old territorial row that has prevented the two countries from signing a post-World War II peace treaty.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet with President Vladimir Putin in December in Japan.

In response to the government request, Japanese travel agencies are planning to send officials to the region, such as Vladivostok and Khabarovsk, next month to check tourism resources and facilities, and gauge expected demand.

Abe proposed in May an eight-point plan for economic cooperation between Japan and Russia, including the promotion of human exchanges.

The government-run Japan National Tourism Organization is planning to open an office in Moscow.

Around 100,000 Japanese tourists visited Russia in 2014, compared with 3.5 million who visited the United States and 2.7 million who visited China, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

Japanese tourists mainly visit western Russia, such as Moscow and St. Petersburg, and make their trips in summer.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko, who also oversees economic cooperation with Russia, asked the Japan Association of Travel Agents last month to increase tours to the Russian Far East.

Putin has attached great importance to developing the Russian Far East and Siberia, known for rich energy resources.

Japan has shown an interest in energy development with Russia, which may help reduce Japan’s dependence on oil imports from the Middle East.

To enhance human exchanges between the countries, Japan has already drawn up plans to relax visa rules for visitors from Russia.

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