Abe calls for greater public support for peace treaty signing

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday called for improving conditions to resolve a decades-old bilateral territorial dispute and conclude a post-World War II peace treaty, including achieving greater support from both the Japanese and Russian people.

Abe’s comments suggested a more time-consuming process and contrasted with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s sudden proposal Wednesday that Moscow and Tokyo clinch a peace deal aimed at ending wartime hostilities «without any preconditions» by the end of this year during an economic forum in Vladivostok.

In a meeting with officials of Japanese companies operating in the Russian Far East city, Abe said, «As 70 years have passed (since the end of the war), it is necessary to develop the understanding of Japanese and Russian people and improve the environment to settle these issues.» He did not directly touch on Putin’s abrupt proposal.

«I am determined to move ahead with the peace treaty issue based on mutual recognition that cooperation between Japan and Russia would produce big results and improve (Russian people’s) lives,» he said. «I am resolved to overcome mutually harbored suspicions and make a step forward.»

In recent years, Abe has proposed an eight-point economic cooperation package in Russia’s Far East region and joint economic activities on islands off Hokkaido controlled by Moscow but claimed by Tokyo, in an attempt to build trust that would lead to settling the territorial row and eventually signing a postwar peace treaty.

As an idea that «has just come to my mind,» Putin urged Abe on Wednesday to clinch a peace pact first and then continue negotiations over the islands, which are known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia.

The two countries have not signed a postwar peace treaty due to the dispute over Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group, which were seized by the Soviet Union after Japan surrendered in World War II in August 1945.

Abe was staying in Vladivostok for four days through Thursday to attend the annual Eastern Economic Forum and hold bilateral summits with Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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All — Kyodo News+

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