Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin exchanged opinions about the upcoming talks after Putin expressed his initiative on the peace treaty between the two countries, local media reported.
The NHK broadcaster reported Saturday that the exchange of opinions took place at a judo tournament, which was attended by both leaders. Along with Abe and Putin only an interpreter took part in the conversation. Contents of the conversation remain unknown but the broadcaster believes that the leaders discussed the upcoming negotiations.
When Abe returned to Japan he faced criticism over his reaction to Putin’s initiative. Opponents of Abe particularly expected him to voice opposition to the Russian president’s offer as it contradicts the official position of Tokyo, which seeks resolving the South Kurils dispute before signing the peace treaty.
On Friday, Abe confirmed that the Japanese government would keep maintaining its position that the peace treaty with Russia could be concluded only after the settlement of the long-time territorial dispute.
On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested signing a peace treaty between Moscow and Tokyo until the end of the year without any preconditions.
The fact that Japan and Russia have never signed a permanent peace treaty after the end of World War II has long been a stumbling block in Russia-Japan relations.
The main issue standing in the way of a treaty is an agreement concerning a group of four islands that both countries claim — Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai, collectively referred to as the Southern Kurils by Russia and the Northern Territories by Japan. Tokyo and Moscow are currently engaged in consultations on carrying out joint economic activities on the disputed islands.