Japan and Russian Hope to Reach a Solution to Islands Disputed Since World War Two

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that four islands occupied by the Soviet Union more than 70 years ago should be “setting the stage for the development of inter-governmental relations for the long term. We’re not talking about some exchange or some sale, we are talking about finding a solution where neither of the parties would feel defeated or a loser.” The remarks were made before he is set to meet Japan’s Prime minister Shinzo Abe at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Friday.

The two leaders seem eager to settle the problem over the island dispute that has been going on since World War Two. Prime minister Abe stated he wants reach an agreement with both a peace treaty and the territorial dispute. The Japanese leader also said he will invite Putin for talks in his home prefecture of Yamaguchi in southern Japan when Putin is scheduled to visit Japan in December.

Photo: Sputniknews.com

Photo: Sputniknews.com

Russia is seeking to strengthen trade ties with Japan as their economic relations with China has slowed. This will be the second time the two leaders will discuss the islands, after Abe met Putin in Sochi in May, ignoring President Barack Obama appeal not to visit. The customs service in Moscow has stated that trade with China, Russia’s biggest trade partner, fell 28 percent to $63.6 billion last year, well short of the countries’ joint target of $100 billion. Japan, Russia’s eighth-largest partner, fell by almost 31 percent to $21.3 billion while commodities accounted for more than three-quarters of Russian exports by value.

The disputed islands Abe and Putin will discuss were taken from Japan by the Soviet Army in the closing days of World War Two and have remained a source of contention ever since. A 1956 peace treaty was signed but was later nullified. “I don’t think it’s closer than in 1956 but, in any case, we resumed a dialogue on this subject.” said Putin.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s top government spokesman, told reporters in Tokyo the islands will be an important theme for the talks. He said it was “abnormal” that the nations had yet to sign a peace treaty. The Kyodo news agency reported that Abe and Putin will discuss the potential return of the islands to Japan.

Prime minister Abe is eager to make a deal with Russia, creating a new post of minister for economic cooperation with Russia. Putin is eager to show that Russia hasn’t been left isolated by U.S. and European Union sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine. The Russian President will follow the Abe meeting with a trip to the Group of 20 summit in China.

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