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Japan, Russia eye new working group on isle activities

Moscow, Nov. 6 (Jiji Press)–Japan and Russia on Wednesday agreed to create a bureau head-level working group to hold comprehensive discussions on planned joint economic activities on disputed northwestern Pacific islands.

The agreement was reached at a meeting between visiting Japanese Senior Deputy Foreign Minister Takeo Mori and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov.

The two countries decided that existing working groups on the joint activities on the Russian-held islands, claimed by Japan, should be integrated, Mori told reporters.

The planned group will discuss legal and other problems that must be resolved before the joint activities start.

In preparation for the start, Japan recently conducted a trial sightseeing tour of some of the islands for its nationals for the first time.

Mori and Morgulov discussed tasks that need to be cleared in order to start full-fledged tours. The two countries aim to hold the first such tour as early as next spring.

The officials confirmed that the two countries will continue preparations for a planned meeting of their foreign ministers on the sidelines of a gathering of the Group of 20 top diplomats in Nagoya, central Japan, later this month.

Mori and Morgulov also agreed that arrangements will be continued to realize Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi’s expected visit to Russia.

Tokyo hopes Motegi’s visit will come true within the year if possible, Mori said.

He also said he and Morgulov shared the view that preparations should be launched for a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The islands in question were seized from Japan by Soviet troops in the closing days of World War II. The territorial dispute has prevented the two countries from concluding a peace treaty.

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