TOKYO, January 8 (RIA Novosti) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning to make his first official trip to Russia sometime in spring to discuss a long-running territorial dispute over the Kuril islands with Russian President Vladimir Putin, local media reported.
The row over the islands – which Russia calls the Southern Kurils and Japan calls the Northern Territories – has prevented Tokyo and Moscow from signing a permanent peace treaty following the end of World War II and remains a major stumbling block in the development of bilateral relations.
According to The Japan Times, Abe is planning to visit the United States and South Korea in January and February while sending former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori to Russia to set the stage for his meeting with Putin either in April or May.
The Kuril Islands dispute has clouded relations between Moscow and Tokyo for decades. Japan claims the rights for the four islands, Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and Habomai, based on the 1855 Treaty of Shimoda – the first Russo-Japanese agreement addressing the status of Sakhalin Island and the Kurils.
Moscow argues the islands were rightfully annexed by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II in 1945 and there can be no dispute about Russian sovereignty over them.
Abe, who led his Liberal Democratic Party to a landslide victory in parliamentary elections in December, has vowed to defend Japan’s interests in territorial disputes with neighbors, including Russia and China.