Abe makes no progress with Putin in talks on Russia-held islands, postwar peace treaty
Japan Times -- Jan 23
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to seek progress on a decadeslong territorial dispute over a group of islands that have remained under Russian control since the end of World War II.

The meeting came as the two countries are accelerating talks for a postwar peace treaty that has not been concluded due to the territorial dispute, with the focus shifting to whether Abe will secure a deal on the handover of two of the four disputed isles off Hokkaido.

Abe hopes to settle the dispute over the islands, known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia, to make a World War II peace deal the main pillar of his political legacy. Abe is believed to be pursuing a June timeline to reach a broad agreement with Putin, who is expected to visit Japan that month for the Group of 20 summit.

As part of efforts to strengthen mutual trust between Tokyo and Moscow, Abe and Putin are expected to discuss ways to foster joint economic activities on the four islands.

But it remains unclear whether the leaders will find common ground in their 25th summit, after agreeing in Singapore in November to step up their search for a solution on the basis of a 1956 joint declaration issued by Japan and the Soviet Union.

The declaration, which ended the state of war between the nations and restored diplomatic ties, stipulated the handover by the Soviet Union to Japan of Shikotan Island and the Habomai islet group following the conclusion of a peace treaty.

The two countries differ over what a “handover” of the two islands would mean, with Tokyo arguing that it should entail Japan assuming sovereignty and Moscow asserting nothing relating to sovereignty is mentioned in the 1956 document.

Japan maintains that all of the islands are “inherent territories” of the country that were “illegally occupied” by the Soviet Union following Tokyo’s surrender in World War II in 1945, while Moscow insists it legitimately acquired them as a result of the war.

With Moscow increasingly viewed as unlikely to cede the two larger islets, called Kunashiri and Etorofu in Japan, Japanese government sources said Abe is leaning toward accepting a peace pact with Russia if the handover of the two smaller islets is assured.

日ロ首脳会談が日本時間22日午後9時前から始まった。「平和条約締結後に歯舞群島と色丹島を日本へ引き渡す」とした『日ソ共同宣言』を交渉の基礎とすることで去年11月に合意し、実務者協議がスタートしてから初めての会談となる。

News sources: Japan Times, ANNnewsCH
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