Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed an intention to continue dialogue with Russia in order to resolve the territorial dispute and make a peace treaty.

While addressing a press conference following a cabinet reshuffle, Abe said that in September he would visit Russia’s far eastern city of Vladivostok and hold a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “In accordance with the agreements reached at the summit held last December, I plan to advance towards a peace treaty, particularly through joint economic activities on the islands and visa-free travels for their former residents,” Abe added.

Since the mid-20th century, Russia and Japan have been holding consultations in order to clinch a peace treaty as a follow-up to World War II. The Kuril Islands issue remains the sticking point since after WWII the islands were handed over to the Soviet Union while Japan has laid claims to the four southern islands. In 1956, the two countries signed a common declaration on ending the state of war and restoring diplomatic and all other relations, however, a peace treaty has still not been reached. Moscow has stated many times that Russia’s sovereignty over the islands could not be questioned.

On December 15-16, 2016, the Russian president visited Japan for the first in 11 years.

The peace treaty issue and the South Kuril Islands issue topped the agenda, while bilateral cooperation was also discussed. Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe adopted a joint statement saying that consultations on joint economic activities on the South Kuril Islands could become an important step on the way to a peace treaty. The first consultations on joint economic activities, involving the Russian and Japanese deputy foreign ministers, were held in Tokyo on March 18. After the consultations, Japan said that participants in the meeting had presented their specific plans on cooperation in healthcare, tourism industry and fishery.

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