MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said no time frame should be set for signing a bilateral post-World War II peace treaty between Russia and Japan.
“This is a case where it is impossible and even harmful, in my opinion, to determine any time limits,” Putin said at a forum gathering experts on Russia in Sochi, ahead of his meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in December, where the peace treaty issue is set to top the agenda.
Putin made the comments in reply to a question from a Japanese participant who asked if a peace treaty could be signed in the next two, three or four years.
A dispute over four Russian-held, Japanese-claimed islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia, has prevented the two countries from concluding a postwar peace treaty.
Abe has shown strong enthusiasm for resolving the decades-old dispute ahead of the Dec. 15 summit and signing a peace treaty. As part of his push, he has proposed to Putin an eight-point economic cooperation plan, including assistance in industrialization of the Russian Far East and energy development.
However, Putin said he “cannot” say when and how the territorial dispute will be resolved. While describing Russia as enjoying a high level of trust in its relationship with China, he said, “Unfortunately, the relationship with Japan has not reached such quality.”
At the same time, he showed enthusiasm for developing ties, saying “resolving all of the bilateral issues once and for all” is in the two countries’ national interests.
“We need to jointly address the issue in view of the future” and based on bilateral agreements made in the past, he said.
In Tokyo, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda, asked to comment on Putin’s remarks, said, “Officially, all of the talks will be promoted at the Japan-Russia summit in December.
“Japan will continue negotiations under the relationship of trust” and based on discussions which have been held in the past, Hagiuda said, adding that it is “unavoidable” that there exists differences between the two countries over the territorial dispute.