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Japan disregards U.S. opposition to Abe-Putin talks in Tokyo

Japan has disregarded U.S. opposition to a planned bilateral summit between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Tokyo next week, diplomatic sources said Saturday.


Last month Washington repeatedly conveyed its objection to the Abe-Putin meeting in the capital out of concern that it might relieve pressure on Moscow by the Group of Seven economies, but on Thursday Japan formally announced the summit for Dec. 16, as well as another meeting in Yamaguchi Prefecture the previous day.


The U.S. administration of President Barack Obama has been critical of Russia over its annexation of Crimea in 2014 and for backing the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.


But Abe wants to maintain good relations with Russia in the hope of achieving a breakthrough in the decades-old territorial dispute and concluding a postwar peace treaty.


The Japanese government’s decision to go ahead with staging a summit with Putin in the capital highlights a rift between Tokyo and Washington on the issue.


According to the sources, the Obama administration conveyed its opposition to Japan over the planned Abe-Putin meeting more than once through diplomatic channels around in November.


The U.S government voiced concern that staging such a meeting in the Japanese capital could send the wrong message that the G-7 is not united in pressuring Moscow, the sources said.


The Japanese government is believed to have told Washington that Putin’s planned visit should not be seen as especially favorable treating because the Russian leader will not be meeting with Japanese Emperor Akihito.


A Japanese government source said, “Although Japan needs to play a role as a G-7 member, it is also natural for us to pursue national interests and holding a summit meeting in Tokyo causes no problem.”


Moscow sought a summit with Abe in Tokyo during Putin’s visit to the country. The Japanese government had initially planned to focus on a meeting in Yamaguchi, Abe’s constituency, where the two leaders would spend substantial time but eventually agreed to Russia’s proposal to extend the summit to the capital, the sources added.


The G-7 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

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