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Russia reluctant to resume peace treaty talks with Japan

TOKYO, Nov. 15, Kyodo — Russia is reluctant to reconvene a meeting on concluding a peace treaty despite repeated requests by Tokyo to speed up the talks ahead of a summit next month between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Japanese government sources said Monday.


But Russia is willing to hold talks on economic cooperation. The Japan-Russia Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Issues, co-chaired by Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, is to meet Tuesday in Tokyo.


Ahead of the Abe-Putin summit on Dec. 15 in the western Japan prefecture of Yamaguchi, Japan hopes to advance talks with Russia to resolve a decades-old territorial dispute over Russian-held, Japanese-claimed islets off Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, and to conclude a peace treaty.


Since May, Japan has repeatedly dangled the prospect of big increases in investment and trade in return for settling the territorial dispute and signing a peace treaty.


At talks in May in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where Abe presented to Putin an eight-point cooperation plan, the two leaders agreed to accelerate talks toward concluding a peace treaty.


Abe also showed enthusiasm to help develop the Russian Far East during talks with Putin in Vladivostok in September.


During the meeting in May, a senior Russian official said the two leaders agreed to hold talks regarding a treaty once every two months.


But talks on a treaty have not been held since Chikahito Harada, the Japanese government representative and ambassador in charge of Japan-Russia relations, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov met in August in Moscow. They also met in June in Tokyo.


According to a Japanese government source, Japan has repeatedly requested Russia to resume peace treaty talks before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit to be held Nov. 19-20 in Peru.


But Russia has not responded to the requests, citing “scheduling” issues, the source said.


It remains to be seen whether Abe and Putin will agree to reconvene the peace treaty talks at their scheduled meeting on the sidelines of the APEC meeting.

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