Japan PM to meet Putin, a first in 10yrs

2013-04-29 15:20
Russia's President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during their meeting in Moscow. (Kirill Kudrayavtsev, AFP)

Russia's President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during their meeting in Moscow. (Kirill Kudrayavtsev, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Moscow - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday for the first such top-level visit in a decade that aims to break years of stalemate in a territorial dispute dating from World War II.

The failure of the two sides since the 1950s to agree a peace treaty owing to the dispute over ownership of the Pacific Kuril islands chain has held up full potential of bilateral ties.

However since returning to power in December, Abe has made a priority of improving relations with Russia. Before leaving Tokyo, he reaffirmed his desire to restart stalled talks over the dispute.

"I would like to build a trusted personal relationship with President Putin," Abe told reporters in Tokyo ahead of his departure for the three-day trip.

"I will work on boosting Japan-Russia relations so that this visit will mark a restart in stalled negotiations over a peace treaty," Abe said.

Abe and Putin were expected to release a joint statement confirming they would restart territorial talks, a Japanese government source told Kyodo News.

Biggest delegation ever

Abe and Putin are due to hold one-on-one talks at the Kremlin, followed by meetings involving business delegations from both sides. They were then to give a joint news conference.

The last such top-level official visit was by then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who travelled to Moscow to meet Putin in January 2003.

Former prime ministers Yasuo Fukada and Taro Aso visited in 2008 and 2009 for shorter, lower-level trips.

Abe's visit is also taking place after an intriguing trip to Moscow in February by Abe's close ally, the former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who delivered a message from the new premier to Putin.

Abe is being accompanied by a business delegation of 120 people, the biggest ever such group to join a Japanese prime minister on a visit to Russia.

Japan is particularly interested in increasing its import of Russian energy resources as it seeks to diversify supplies in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster

'Unforgivable outrage'

Russia's trade with Japan reached $32bn in 2012. But Russia, despite its size and proximity, was only Japan's 15th most important trading partner, in a sign of the unrealised potential of relations.

The dispute surrounds the southernmost four of the Kuril islands - known in Japan as the Northern Territories - which have been controlled by Moscow since they were seized by Soviet troops at Stalin's behest in 1945 at the end of World War II.

The Kremlin said in a statement that Russia believed that "dialogue in the interests of arriving at a mutually acceptable solution must be held in a calm, respectful atmosphere."

Yet there remains little hope of an immediate breakthrough, with Tokyo insisting the four islands currently inhabited by around 16 500 Russians are its territory and Moscow showing no hint of a compromise.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has twice visited the island of Kunashir, called Kunashiri in Japan, infuriating Tokyo.

Medvedev's first visit to the island, which juts out past the north-eastern tip of Japan's Hokkaido island, in November 2010 - when he still held the post of president - was condemned by Tokyo as an "unforgivable outrage".

One solution mooted in the past could involve Russia ceding control of the two smallest islands of Shikotan and Khabomai and keeping the much larger Kunashir and Iturup (known as Etorofu in Japan).

But even this would require massive concessions from both sides that would be unacceptable for nationalists.

After Russia, Abe was due to visit Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey for talks with leaders there.

Read more on:    shinzo abe  |  dmitry medvedev  |  vladimir putin  |  russia  |  japan

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.