LIMA – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held intensive talks Saturday with Russian President Vladimir Putin on territorial issues and said he wanted to achieve a breakthrough in negotiations on the disputed islands off Hokkaido when Putin visits Japan next month.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting in Lima, Abe said he “has come to see a path toward resolution” of what he referred to as the “peace treaty issue,” a decades-old territorial dispute that has prevented the two countries from concluding a post-World War II peace treaty.
During the 70-minute meeting on the sidelines of a Pacific Rim summit in the Peruvian capital, Abe and Putin spent half the time discussing the territorial issue alone with their interpreters, according to a senior Japanese official.
The official declined to provide details about the talks, however, because the issue involving the four Russian-held, Japan-claimed islands off Hokkaido remains under negotiation.
“It’s not easy to make a big step forward,” Abe said, citing the fact that Tokyo and Moscow have failed to resolve the issue for 70 years. “But I would like to move forward step by step.”
Abe expressed his intention to speak with Putin about economic issues in Tokyo on Dec. 16, following their scheduled meeting in Yamaguchi, Abe’s constituency in western Japan, a day beforehand.
Abe also said the two leaders affirmed the progress the two governments have made on an eight-point economic cooperation plan Abe proposed to Putin in May.
Hiroshige Seko, minister of economy, trade and industry, joined the first half of the meeting and presented the two leaders with a list of projects the two sides have crafted for the plan.
Japan and Russia have agreed to promote tourism and ease visa requirements for each other’s citizens under the plan.
The projects include setting up an office of the state-backed Japan National Tourism Organization in Moscow as part of efforts to promote tourism between the countries.
On energy, Tokyo and Moscow will promote joint development of oil and gas fields, green energy projects and look to technical collaboration on nuclear power generation.
The two sides will expand the size of student exchanges from 2017. They will also conduct sports exchanges in the run-up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Putin said the eight-point cooperation plan is a good initiative for advancing economic relations between the two countries, according to the senior Japanese official who briefed reporters about the meeting.
Japan hopes to use the eight-point plan as leverage for pushing forward talks on the territorial issue.
To put a final touch to preparations for Putin’s visit, Abe said Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will visit Russia on Dec. 3 for talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, the senior Japanese official said.
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