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Abe, Putin to OK joint activities on disputed isles in 5 areas

TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin are set to approve joint economic activities on disputed islands off Hokkaido, a diplomatic source said Wednesday.In their talks in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok, the leaders are likely to sign off on joint activities in five areas –aquaculture, greenhouse farming, tourism, wind power, and waste reduction, the source said.


Tokyo sees the joint activities in the Russian-held, Japanese-claimed islands off Japan’s northernmost main island as a pathway to resolving the territorial dispute and signing a post-World War II peace treaty, while Moscow hopes to attract Japanese investments in promoting the underdeveloped regions.


With a view to realizing the projects, a group of Japanese government officials and experts from the public and private sectors will conduct their second round of studies on the islands as early as October, the source said.


An intergovernmental working group will also be set up to promote the activities, with officials from foreign, trade, health and environment ministries taking part from Japan, it said.


As the two sides remain far apart in their stance on sovereignty over the islands, they would need to find a way to conduct the activities that does not compromise their respective positions or create legal problems.


The disputed islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group were seized by the Soviet Union after Japan’s surrender in August 1945 ended World War II. They are called the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan.


In talks with Putin, Abe also hopes to get Russia’s support for strengthening pressure on North Korea, which on Sunday conducted its latest in an ongoing series of ballistic missile and nuclear tests in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.


The U.N. Security Council, of which Russia is a veto-wielding permanent member, is currently debating imposing fresh sanctions on North Korea, with Japan and the United States pushing for an oil embargo on the reclusive state.


On the occasion of the Abe-Putin summit, Japan and Russia are set to exchange over 30 agreements in areas including healthcare for the elderly, postal services and cutting-edge technologies, the source said.

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