• Kyodo, Jiji


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed during phone talks Thursday to jointly work toward containing the spread of coronavirus.

The two welcomed the recent deepening of bilateral cooperation in the economic field, as seen in a joint investment in a project to develop a rapid test kit for the virus, according to a senior Japanese government official.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, said Wednesday its joint fund with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation is investing in the project to make a test kit that can detect the virus in 30 minutes.

Abe had planned to meet with Putin in Moscow on the occasion of a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of Russia’s victory over Germany in World War II on May 9. But the event was postponed due to the pandemic.

The meeting would have provided an opportunity for Abe to seek to break the deadlock in negotiations toward concluding a postwar peace treaty between Japan and Russia.

The talks were the first since last September, when they met face to face in Vladivostok. The phone talks were held at the request of the Japanese side.

During the roughly 30-minute conversation, Abe and Putin also agreed to step up peace treaty talks, as well as joint economic activities on the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, the official said.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Naoki Okada told reporters after the talks that Japan and Russia will work to set up the next bilateral summit talks through diplomatic channels while monitoring the coronavirus outbreak.

The spat over the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido has prevented the two nations from signing a peace treaty.

Joint economic activities are part of bilateral efforts to build mutual trust. But Russia, which maintains that it legitimately obtained the islands as a result of the war, has not budged over the long-standing territorial issue.

Japan’s stance is that the islands were seized by the Soviet Union illegally.

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