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Japan mulling inviting Putin in 2019 to press isles issue

  • January 6, 2018
  • , Kyodo News , 2:28 a.m.
  • English Press

The Japanese government is considering inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to Japan around May next year in the hope of making progress in resolving a decades-long territorial row, government sources said Friday.


Putin last visited Japan in December 2016. That trip was played up in Japan as a potential turning point in the row over the sovereignty of a chain of Russian-held, Japanese-claimed islands off Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, but resulted in little tangible change.


Putin is expected to visit Japan next year in any case to take part in the Group of 20 leaders’ summit, the date of which has yet to be announced.


This assumes Putin’s victory in the Russian presidential election in March.


Tokyo is increasingly of the mind that the territorial issue “must be moved along while Putin, who has stable domestic support, remains in power,” a government source said.


The leaders agreed during Putin’s last visit to begin talks on carrying out joint economic activities on the islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia, in a way that would compromise neither country’s legal position on their sovereignty.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apparently hopes that his own planned trip to Russia in May this year, combined with a visit by Putin next year, could lead to the start of the joint activities.


But the question remains whether this economic cooperation could prompt progress in the stalled discussions over the islands, the row over which has prevented Japan and Russia from concluding a post-World War II peace treaty.


Abe is expected to convey the invitation to Putin during his visit to Russia.


According to the sources, the prevailing idea in the Japanese government is to invite Putinon a date separate from the G-20 summit for purely bilateral purposes.


The sources said Abe is also seeking to secure separate talks with Putin about the islands by attending this year’s Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Sept. 6-7, as he has done in previous years.


Japanese officials will also discuss with their Russian counterparts the possibility of bilateral talks on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in Papua New Guinea in mid-November and this year’s G-20 summit in Argentina at the end of that month, the sources said.



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