Japan, Russia to Begin Talks on Joint Activities on Disputed Isles (News)


Tokyo, Dec. 16 (Jiji Press)—Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzō and visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Friday that the two countries will launch talks on conducting joint economic activities on four northwestern Pacific islands at the center of their territorial dispute in a way that does not undermine their legal positions on the issue of a peace treaty.

While details of the economic activities will be decided through future negotiations, it remains unclear whether the economic cooperation will lead to a solution to the territorial dispute, sources familiar with the situation said.

Abe and Putin also agreed to boost cooperation in the economic and nonmilitary fields.

At the bilateral summit, held at Abe's office in Tokyo, they are believed to have failed to make substantive progress on the issue of sovereignty over the four Russian-controlled islands that were seized by the former Soviet Union from Japan at the end of World War II and have been claimed by Japan, the sources said.

In a press statement issued after the meeting, which lasted for about 70 minutes, the two leaders said they have reached a mutual understanding that starting the talks on the joint economic activities on the four islands could be an important step toward concluding a peace treaty.

Ex-Residents Disappointed at Lack of Island Return Accord

Tokyo, Dec. 16 (Jiji Press)—Former Japanese residents of four Russian-held islands expressed disappointment on Friday over the lack of a clear-cut deal on the return of the islands to Japan from a closely watched bilateral summit meeting this week.

"They (the agreements at the summit) fell far short of expectations," Takekuma Satoshi, a 73-year-old man who was born in the Habomai group of islets, part of the disputed islands.

"I had strong hopes this time. I was really disappointed to learn that Russia has not agreed to return even the Habomais and Shikotan," said Takekuma, a resident of Nemuro, Hokkaido, northernmost Japan.

The Habomais and Shikotan are the smaller two of the four islands off Hokkaido seized from Japan by Soviet troops in 1945 in the closing days of World War II. The 1956 Japan-Soviet joint declaration called for the handover of the two islands to Japan once the two sides conclude a peace treaty to end their wartime hostilities.

At their two-day meeting through Friday in Japan, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzō and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed that the two countries will start discussions on joint economic activities on the four northwestern Pacific islands.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

diplomacy Abe Shinzō Russia Jiji Press Northern Territories Vladimir Putin