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Tokyo and Moscow should promote economic cooperation separately from peace treaty talks, Russian business leader says

JIJI

Russian business leader Alexander Shokhin has said that Russia-Japan economic cooperation should be promoted separately from negotiations on concluding a World War II peace treaty between the two countries.

In a recent interview, Shokhin, president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, said improved political relations between the two countries is favorable.

Noting that private-sector economic cooperation has no direct link with a peace accord, he said progress in treaty negotiations should not be set as a condition for the promotion of such cooperation.

His comments came after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin, at their meeting in Singapore last week, agreed to accelerate the negotiations.

Tokyo and Moscow have still been unable to conclude a peace treaty to formally end their wartime hostilities, blocked by their longstanding territorial dispute over four Russian-controlled islands off Hokkaido, known as the Northern Territories in Japan. The islands were seized by the former Soviet Union from Japan at the end of the war.

Shokhin said that Japanese companies’ foray into Russia under an eight-point economic cooperation plan Abe proposed to Putin in 2016 has made very good progress on a whole.

In particular, the promotion of health and medical cooperation has been helpful for Russia, which is trying to raise the average life expectancy of its people, Shokhin said.

He cited the digitalization of Russia’s economy and industries as a new priority, expressing his hope that Japan’s technology sector will increase its investment in and promote technological cooperation with Russia.

The consensus-building mechanism for world leaders has been jeopardized, he said, after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum member economies failed for the first time ever to produce a joint communique by their leaders at their annual summit held last weekend in the Papua New Guinea capital of Port Moresby, mainly due to trade friction between the United States and China.

If division is shown again at the two-day summit of the Group of 20 advanced and emerging economies in Buenos Aires from Nov. 30, the situation will become critical, Shokhin said.