The following is the gist of remarks that the Japanese and Russian leaders made at the Eastern Economic Forum.
Moderator: What will happen to the Northern Territories?
Prime Minister Abe: I met with Russian President Putin at Nagato (in Yamaguchi Prefecture in December 2016). Japan and Russia could not resolve the territorial and peace treaty issues for a long time, but in the Nagato meeting, we determined to change our conventional approach. This means that we should start by making constant efforts. The joint economic activities in the Northern Territories will help deepen our mutual understanding between Japan and Russia. I strongly believe that this will serve as a powerful engine in resolving the territorial issue and concluding a peace treaty.
Moderator: At the Japan-Russia summit (held on Sept. 10), did you talk about anything like if there is a change in the title to the four islands, U.S. forces might be deployed there?
President Putin: First and foremost, Shinzo, I would like to say that you are right. We discussed how we can reach the conclusion of a peace treaty.
Over the past 70 years, Japan and Russia have worked to resolve the territorial issue. The Japan-Soviet joint declaration of 1956 was not only signed. It was ratified by the supreme council in the Soviet Union and Japan’s Diet. Later, the Japanese side rejected the implementation of the declaration.
Prime Minister Abe proposed the approach be changed, and I have no objection to doing that. This is only my idea, but we should sign a peace treaty first, for example, by the end of the year with no conditions attached.
After signing a peace treaty, as a friend, I would like to continue discussions on the Northern Territories, a point of the dispute. We could not resolve the issue over the past 70 years. So I hope we can resolve the issue of a peace treaty by the year end.