Putin Says 'Naive' to Expect Quick Settling of Japan Island Dispute
Russia's territorial dispute with Japan over the Kuril islands was unlikely to be settled soon, President Vladimir Putin said Monday, seeming to pour cold water on his Japanese counterpart's more optimistic forecast.
"This issue has been discussed for many decades, and it would be naive to think that it can be solved quickly," Putin said after meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of an economic forum in Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.
"But we are ready to look for resolutions that would work for both Russia and Japan, and which would be accepted by the people in both countries," he said.
Putin said Moscow and Tokyo have made some progress in building cooperation and economic ties on the four southernmost islands in the Kuril chain which the Soviet Union occupied at the end of World War II but are claimed by Japan.
The dispute kept the two countries from ever signing a peace accord.
After numerous meetings over the past few years between Abe and Putin, they have launched various economic projects on the islands in areas such as the farming of fish and shellfish, wind-generated energy, and tourism.
Since last year, the countries have also agreed on charter flights for former Japanese island inhabitants to visit family graves there.
"I am certain that our bilateral relation will gain new impetus after this visit," Putin said.
Upon departing for Vladivostok, Abe had said he hoped "to make progress in resolving the territorial dispute and sealing a peace treaty."
He told Putin Monday that Moscow and Tokyo "face a difficult task" but that the two leaders share "mutual confidence" in pursuing the negotiations.
The two also confirmed that Putin will travel to Japan on an official visit next year, Abe said.