Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, met in Moscow today to discuss a trio of topics, namely economic cooperation, the North Korea peace agreements that might be in the works, which both parties support, and the Southern Kuril islands issue.
Putin has essentially laid out to Abe the proposal to review the territorial matter if they can find some areas mutual economic cooperation. Putin stressed that it’s important to strengthen their ties, and joint economic initiatives is a great way to achieve that goal. From there, it may be possible to realize a mutually acceptable position on the Kuril island matter.
Mainichi press reports:
MOSCOW (Kyodo) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Saturday to make renewed efforts to sign a postwar peace treaty and accelerate bilateral economic cooperation.
At a press conference after summit talks in Moscow, Putin said, “What is important is to seek a solution that serves national interests of both sides and is mutually acceptable.”
Abe said he and Putin confirmed the two countries will work together toward North Korea’s denuclearization, saying, “This is the stance shared by Japan and Russia.”
Abe and Putin met amid uncertainty over whether U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet next month in a bid to defuse a potential nuclear confrontation, and following news South Korean President Moon Jae In and Kim met Saturday for the second time.
In their 21st face-to-face meeting, Abe and Putin discussed how to foster joint economic activities in five areas on disputed islands controlled by Moscow and claimed by Japan, as agreed to last September.
The two leaders agreed to accelerate consultations to realize the projects and dispatch business missions to the islands in July.
Japan hopes the activities will pave the way to settling a decades-long territorial row over the islands, and ultimately to signing a post-World War II peace treaty. For its part, Russia aims to attract Japanese investments in the underdeveloped Far East region.
Abe is banking on Putin, who in March won election to a second consecutive six-year term as president, and to his fourth term overall, to make a landmark decision over the contested isles off Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido.
In a joint interview with Kyodo News and other news agencies Friday in St. Petersburg, Putin said a peace treaty is possible if bilateral relations deepen through planned joint economic activities.
But when it comes to the disputed islands, it is still unclear whether the two countries will be able to come up with a “special framework” that does not compromise either side’s legal position on the islands’ sovereignty.
The islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia, were seized by the former Soviet Union at the end of the war.
As part of humanitarian measures, Abe and Putin agreed to allow former Japanese residents of the islands to travel by aircraft to the islands this year to visit relatives’ graves, as was allowed last year for the first time.
Abe and Putin also confirmed how far the eight-point economic cooperation package, which Abe proposed two years ago, has advanced.
On security, the two leaders agreed to hold the next round of so-called two-plus-two talks — involving the two countries’ foreign and defense ministers — following a session in March 2017 in Tokyo.
On North Korea, Abe said he believes Putin understood Japan’s stance to resolve comprehensively the issues of defusing tensions ignited by Pyongyang’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile capabilities, as well as of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.
Japan has been performing a delicate balancing act while pursuing improved relations with Moscow, amid deteriorating ties between Russia and Western countries, and particularly the United States, Japan’s major ally.
Putin’s diplomatic activities for the week didn’t end with the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, or the Astana meetings before that, he’s making good use of his weekend to set out some areas to work out relations with the Japanese, who happen to be closely allied with the nation that dropped not one but two nukes on them, back in WW2.
However, Japanese-US ties have experienced some rough patches as of late over the US’s persistent military presence in some areas, as well as Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, which Japan did not receive an exemption for.
Japan has recently threatened America with retaliatory countermeasures if progress is not made towards removing or exempting Japan from the tariff, which Trump enacted as a national security precaution, presumably under the concern that Japan represents a threat to America by trading with it.