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Abe, Putin agree to boost progress on peace treaty, increase trade

  • Makiko Yanada and Mikoto Hata

    The Japan News/Asia News Network

Tokyo, Japan   /   Thu, January 24, 2019   /   09:09 am
Abe, Putin agree to boost progress on peace treaty, increase trade Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at the end of a joint press statement following their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on January 22, 2019. (AFP/Alexey Druzhinin/ Sputnik)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to ramp up negotiations over a peace treaty during a meeting Tuesday afternoon at the Kremlin. 

As part of strengthening the Japan-Russia relationship to facilitate the conclusion of a treaty, the leaders agreed to increase bilateral trade to about 1.5 times current levels over the next few years to at least $30 billion. 

The two leaders have met every month since November. The latest meeting was their 25th overall and lasted about three hours. 

Abe and Putin instructed their foreign ministers, who are in charge of the treaty negotiations, to move forward on the talks while at an international conference in Germany scheduled for February. 

“Under the leadership of myself and Mr. Putin, we will make strong progress on our shared task of finding solutions that are mutually acceptable. We confirmed our resolve to achieve this,” Abe said at a joint press conference after the meeting.

Putin said they had “confirmed both countries’ interest in signing a peace treaty.” Neither provided any details about the negotiations. 

In addition to kick-starting the peace treaty talks, the leaders agreed at the meeting to accelerate the search for ways to quickly realize joint economic activities on four northern islands. 

They also agreed that flights to allow former residents of the northern territories to visit ancestral graves, which first occurred in autumn of 2017, would go ahead this summer. 

To deepen trust on security matters, they agreed to continue exchanges between defense and border security authorities, and to work together on issues involving North Korea. 

This was the first Japan-Russia summit since their respective foreign ministers started negotiations on the peace treaty on Jan. 14. Among the officials attending the meeting were Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko, as well as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

In their November summit meeting, Abe and Putin agreed that negotiations would proceed based on a 1956 Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration stating that two of the islands — the Habomai island group and Shikotan — would be handed over once a peace treaty is signed.