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FM Kono to visit Russia this month and early next month

Foreign Minister Taro Kono has begun making coordination with Russia for his visit to the country this month and early in the new year to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. Kono aims to lay the groundwork for negotiations on a peace treaty including the issue of the Northern Territories, in the run-up to a summit meeting to be held between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin late January next year.


During a summit meeting in Argentina on Dec. 1, Prime Minister Abe and President Putin agreed that the two countries’ foreign ministers will be “in charge of negotiations.” The Japanese government aims to come to a general agreement with Russia on negotiations on a peace treaty during January’s summit meeting at earliest. A government source said, “It would be difficult to make progress in the Northern Territories issue without having at least two meetings between the two foreign ministers.”


In 1956, Kono’s grandfather, Ichiro Kono, former agriculture minister, met for three days with Nikita Khrushchev, the supreme leader of the Soviet Union, the predecessor of Russia, and then First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and paved the way for the conclusion of the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration that year. Lavrov is known as a hard-liner on the territorial issue. However, a senior official of the Foreign Ministry expressed his hope, “The Russian side respects the “Kono family,” which contributed to improving the Japan-Soviet relationship.”


Kono expressed his eagerness at a press conference on Dec. 4, saying, “I want to tenaciously negotiate with Russia based on the government’s policy of resolving the territorial issue and concluding a peace treaty.” He also told his aides: “Since my grandfather went to the Kremlin 60 years ago, the territorial issue has been unresolved between Japan and Russia. As his grandson, I want to settle the issue in my lifetime.”

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