Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who begins a five-day trip to Moscow on Tuesday, will seek to restart stalled negotiations with Russia over a territorial row.
Visiting the country for the first time since becoming foreign minister, Motegi will meet his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, on Thursday. The two have met twice before, albeit only briefly on the sidelines of international meetings.
Motegi will take part in his first round of talks regarding Russian-held islands off Hokkaido.
Japan and Russia are deadlocked over claims to the islands, which were seized from Japan by Soviet troops in 1945, with the issue preventing the two countries from concluding a World War II peace treaty.
Motegi will also seek to coordinate a meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who last met in September. The two leaders were slated to meet in November during an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Chile, but the APEC event was called off due to anti-government protests.
To achieve progress in talks on the territorial issue, Motegi is banking on a strategy of quickly moving ahead with planned joint economic activities on the disputed islands, as sought by Russia. A test run of a sightseeing tour for Japanese people took place this autumn, and Motegi hopes to discuss with Lavrov the possibility of fully implementing the initiative as early as next spring.
Motegi will co-chair a meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Issues with Russian Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin on Wednesday.
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