Vladivostok, Russian Federation, Sep 3 – Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for a new era in ties hampered by a territorial dispute dating back to WWII.
“Let’s put an end to this abnormal situation which has lasted 70 years, and together start to build a new epoch in Russia-Japan ties that will last the next 70 years,” Abe told Putin during a speech translated into Russian after the pair met for talks in Russia’s far eastern city of Vladivostok.
Tokyo-Moscow relations are hamstrung by a row dating back to the end of World War II when Soviet troops seized the southernmost islands in the Pacific Kuril chain, known as the Northern Territories in Japan.
The tensions have prevented the countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending wartime hostilities, hindering trade and investment ties.
The two sides are now on a concerted drive to improve relations with Abe currently on his second trip to Russia this year and Putin set to visit Japan in December.
– Warm words, no breakthrough –
Despite the warm words and clear desire to improve trade, which has been hit by sanctions slapped on Moscow by stalwart US ally Tokyo over Russia’s meddling in Ukraine, there has been no major breakthrough on a deal to end the territorial dispute.
In his speech Saturday to an economic forum in Vladivostok a day after holding talks with Putin, Abe also proposed to the Russian president that the two of them should meet annually in the city to try to hammer out their differences.
Talking on the same stage as Abe, Putin said that, while both Tokyo and Moscow wanted to defend their national interests, the two sides needed to bury the hatchet once and for all.
“Today it is obvious that we can’t let the chances that we have slide by,” Putin said.
“Each of us looks at this problem through the prism of their national interests but we all agree on one thing — we need to solve the problem,” Putin said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters after the two leaders met Friday that they had focused on boosting trade ties, but remained vague about the prospects of solving the territorial conflict.
Russia has angered Japan recently by building new modern compounds for its troops stationed on two of the disputed islands.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev infuriated Tokyo last year when he visited the islands, which are home to some 19,000 Russians.