Japan PM Abe agrees to speed up talks to conclude peace treaty with Russia

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday he agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin to accelerate talks toward the conclusion of a peace treaty between the two countries that has been hampered by a long-standing territorial dispute.

«I agreed with President Putin to accelerate negotiations on a peace treaty based on the 1956 joint declaration between Japan and the Soviet Union,» Abe told reporters after their meeting in Singapore.

Abe said he will visit Russia early next year for talks, expressing hope to put «an end» to the unresolved diplomatic issue.

In the joint document, Moscow agreed to return two of the four disputed islands off Hokkaido to Tokyo once a peace treaty was signed. The declaration was intended to restore diplomatic ties by ending wartime hostilities.

The Soviet Union seized the islands in August 1945 after Japan’s surrender in World War II.

The dispute over the islands, known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia, has prevented Japan and Russia from signing a postwar peace treaty.

The summit was the first since September when Putin suddenly proposed that the two countries conclude a peace treaty «without any preconditions» by year-end. Abe, however, rejected the proposal, saying the dispute over a group of islets off Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido needs to be settled first.

The two leaders discussed promoting joint economic activities on the Russian-held, Japan-claimed islands during Wednesday’s meeting on the sidelines of gatherings related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The promotion of joint economic activities is part of efforts to build confidence between Tokyo and Moscow as Abe seeks to resolve the dispute over the three islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group. Abe and Putin have approved a road map for projects in five key areas such as agriculture and tourism.

All — Kyodo News+

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