Russia’s position on Kuril islands
TOKYO, December 16. /TASS/. Solution to the territorial dispute and the conclusion of a peace treaty between Russia and Japan cannot be reached instantly, Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed at a press conference after talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday.
“It would be naive to believe that we can solve this (territorial dispute over the South Kuril Islands) overnight, but it is necessary to search for a solution that would meet the strategic interests of Russia and Japan and that would be accepted by people of both countries,” the Russian leader said calling the absence of a peace treaty between Moscow and Tokyo “an anachronism of the past.”
Putin urges to stop “historical ping-pong” about the fate of the islands; the interests of both countries require long-term and full settlement.
Putin said he was confident that the sides needed to come to final and long-term settlement.
“To our mind, it is necessary to stop this historical ping-pong for these territories and finally realize that the fundamental interests of both Japan and Russia require final and long-term settlement and this is the crux of the matter,” the Russian president said.
Putin said he hopes joint business activity on Kuril Islands will foster peace treaty between Russia, Japan.
He noted that the initiative on the joint economic activities in the southern Kuril Islands had been supported by both leaders. “We hope that such cooperation will contribute to creating a favorable atmosphere for continuing talks on signing a peace treaty,” Putin said.
“These islands can quite become not an apple of discord between Russia and Japan, if we implement the plans of Mr. Prime Minister [of Japan Shinzo Abe] but, on the contrary, something that unites both Russia and Japan,” Putin said.
As the Russian president said, “If we make proper steps towards the plan proposed by the prime minister – and he proposed creating a separate structure for economic activity on the islands, conclude an inter-governmental agreement and work on the mechanism of interaction,” then this basis can be used to develop such conditions that would allow achieving a final solution on the peace treaty.
Abe-Putin summit ends with economic deals but no isle steps
Visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed Friday to start talks on potential “joint economic activities” they could launch on the four disputed Russia-held islands off Hokkaido, saying it could be an important first step toward resolving their decades-long territorial row.
The leaders also announced an expansion in economic cooperation comprising about 80 business deals between companies and government bodies from both sides.
A senior government official said Japan’s combined investments, loans and credit line for Russia will total ¥300 billion under the deals.
But whether the agreements, which concluded the high-profile summit in Japan, will lead to substantial progress on the isles issue is anyone’s guess.
Abe said any joint economic activities would be conducted under a special legal system that will ensure that each country can retain its legal arguments in the territorial dispute.
Russia insists the islands are its territory and that Russian law would apply to any economic activities on them. Tokyo argues that Moscow is illegally occupying the islands and that any application of Russian law would be unacceptable.
How the two countries will get around this remains unclear.
Putin — at least in public — has shown few signs that he’s ready to make concessions in the territorial dispute. He says economic cooperation should be promoted first to build confidence between the two countries.
Recently, Putin has argued that there is no territorial dispute with Japan, an apparent back-tracking from earlier hints that he would be willing to discuss the issue based on the 1956 Soviet-Japanese joint declaration.
In signing the 1956 document, the then-Soviet Union agreed to hand over two of the four islands after concluding a peace treaty with Japan. The document is still considered active by Russia and Japan.
At their joint news conference at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo, Putin pointed out that bilateral trade between Russia and Japan shrank considerably this year.
He attributed the fall to changes in currency exchange rates, declining prices for natural resources, and Japanese economic sanctions slapped on Russia for its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
“First we need to improve the economic relationship,” Putin said through a translator.
He also argued that Russia and Japan should stop engaging in debates over the history of the territorial row and focus instead on economic cooperation, including on the disputed islands.
“We should build up the joint economic mechanism that the prime minister has proposed. It’s important to move forward to the conclusion of a peace treaty based on this foundation,” Putin said.
But a lack of tangible progress on the dispute is a major setback for Abe.
Abe claimed to have a close rapport with Putin and was trying to win major concessions from Moscow during the two days of talks, which ended Friday.
Still, Abe touted the agreement as a key first step toward building more trust with Moscow, which Japanese officials hope will promote progress in future talks.
“I’m convinced of the legitimacy of Japan’s position and Vladimir is convinced of Russia’s own. We cannot resolve (the dispute) no matter how many times we argue over the cause with each other,” Abe said.
“We should not stick to the past only, and need to build up a win-win relationship” through economic cooperation first, Abe added.
At the news conference, Putin invited Abe to visit Russia and Abe pledged to continue negotiations over the territorial issue.
But time may not be on Abe’s side, at least in the foreseeable future. Oil prices have recently rebounded and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who will take office in January, is expected to considerably improve the Russia-U.S. relationship.
Both factors will strengthen Russia’s position on the global stage and reduce any need for Putin to make major concessions and win more economic cooperation from Japan, experts say.
Later the day, during a live interview on NHK, Abe confirmed the difficulty of the task by saying the territorial row is “not something you can resolve over (the next) couple of years,” but revealed that he and Putin had agreed to settle the issue “within our own generation.”
Earlier, a high-ranking government official acknowledged that the situation for Japan remained “tough” as far as the islands go.
At the same time, the same official emphasized that it will take more time to resolve the row despite widespread media speculation that Moscow would signal a willingness to concede at least two of the four islands during the summit.
Snapshot of Japan-Russia economic cooperation agreements
KYODO – Japan and Russia exchanged some 80 agreements on economic cooperation after talks in Tokyo Friday between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The following is a snapshot of the various pacts:
The designation of 2018 as the year to hold a program of events in each country to deepen bilateral relations.
Plans for dialogue between the Japanese and Russian foreign ministries in 2017.
Cooperation between the countries’ health ministries in the fields of medicine and health care.
Expanded cooperation on development and production in the energy sector, including oil and gas.
Cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear power.
Cooperation in promoting diversity and raising productivity in Russian industry.
Cooperation in promoting industry in the Russian Far East and turning it into a base for exports to the Asia-Pacific.
Cooperation in the fields of information and communications and postal services.
Enhanced cooperation in agriculture and fisheries.
Cooperation between the countries’ patent offices on industrial property rights.
Hygiene standards for Russian livestock farms exporting products to Japan.