Japanese premier hopes for progress on Kurils issue during talks with Putin

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LONDON, January 11. /TASS/. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would seek maximum progress while discussing the issue of sovereignty over the Southern Kuril Islands with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I will visit Russia this month to hold negotiations. However, you always have negotiation partners, so I cannot make any forecasts about the outcome. But my hope is to achieve as much progress as possible during the negotiations with president Putin,” Abe told reporters in London during a joint news conference with UK Prime Minister Threresa May.

“For more than 70 years, there have been absolutely no progress in solving the issue of our ‘northern territories.’ When we met in Nagato two years ago, Japan and Russia agreed on a new approach to how the two states see the future profiles of the four northern islands, [agreed] on forging a new resolution. During the Japanese-Russian summit in Singapore last November, President Putin and I agreed to speed up the process of signing a peace treaty on the basis of the 1956 joint declaration,” Abe added.

Peace treaty issue

Since the mid-20th century, Russia and Japan have been holding consultations in order to clinch a peace treaty as a follow-up to World War II. The Kuril Islands issue remains the sticking point since after WWII the islands were handed over to the Soviet Union while Japan laid claims to the four southern islands – Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan and Habomai. In 1956, the two countries signed a common declaration on ending the state of war and restoring diplomatic and all other relations, however, a peace treaty has still not been reached. The Joint Declaration said that the Soviet government was ready to hand the Shikotan Island and a group of uninhabited islets over to Japan, adding that Tokyo would get actual control of the islands after a peace treaty was signed.

However, after Japan and the United States had signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security in 1960, the Soviet Union withdrew its obligation to hand over the islands. A Soviet government’s memorandum dated January 27, 1960, said that those territories would only be handed over to Japan if all foreign troops were pulled out of the country.

On November 14, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Japanese prime minister held a meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Singapore and agreed that the two countries would speed up peace treaty talks based on the 1956 Joint Declaration.

Abe is expected to make a visit to Russia in the second half of January, while Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono will visit Moscow on January 14.

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