MOSCOW – Russia thinks Japan needs time to form a position on President Vladimir Putin’s unexpected peace treaty proposal last week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
The initiative brings complicated matters to Japan on both the foreign and domestic policy fronts, Peskov said on state television. It is quite understandable and normal to take some time before coming to a decision, he said Sunday.
At an economic conference attended by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday in Vladivostok, Putin proposed that Tokyo and Moscow sign a peace treaty to formally end their wartime hostilities — without any preconditions — by the end of the year.
The proposal stoked controversy in Tokyo, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga saying the same day that Japan remains committed to resolving the long-standing island dispute with Moscow before signing a peace treaty.
Peskov said Abe himself did not respond to the proposal.
Putin’s proposal was intended to help an atmosphere of mutual trust spread between the countries, the presidential spokesman said. The two are strategically on the same path, though there are certain nuances in their approaches, Peskov said. Negotiations will continue, he said.
The territorial dispute over Shikotan, Etorofu, Kunashiri and the Habomai islet group off Hokkaido, has prevented the two sides from concluding a peace treaty to formally end World War II. The islands were seized from Japan by Soviet troops in the closing days of the war and remain under Russian control.
On a TV program aired Sunday, Abe called for calm discussions in the wake of Putin’s unexpected remarks.
“I have reiterated that Japan maintains the basic stance of resolving the territory issue first and then concluding a peace treaty,” Abe said on NHK. “We shouldn’t get confused only by some comments.”
Abe was joined on the debate-style program by former defense chief Shigeru Ishiba, his rival in the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential race.
But Ishiba called for caution against optimism over the course of negotiations on the isle dispute, saying, “Putin’s territorial fixation is extraordinarily strong.”
On the consumption tax, Abe said the rate should basically be raised from 8 percent to 10 percent in October 2019 as scheduled, unless something happens on a magnitude comparable to the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers a decade ago.
Ishiba in the meantime underscored that it is important to create a social environment amenable to the oft-delayed hike, calling in particular for sufficient increases in wages.