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Russia’s Putin urges patience in negotiations with Japan over disputed islands

Russia's President Valdimir Putin shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a meeting at the Moscow Kremlin on May 26, 2018. (Druzhinin Alexei/TASS/Zuma Press/TNS)

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged patience in efforts to resolve a territorial dispute with Japan that’s lasted since World War II after talks Saturday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has made a deal a priority.

“It is important to patiently continue the search for a solution,” Putin said. Abe said Russia and Japan should forge economic cooperation on the four disputed islands to ensure an agreement “acceptable to both nations.”

Since coming to power in 2012, Abe has devoted time and energy into seeking a breakthrough in the dispute over the islands, called the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan. Russian troops seized the islands at the end of the war and the issue has prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty.

The Japanese leader is eager for a deal partly to counterbalance China’s growing economic and military power in the region, while Russia has shown no sign that it’s in a rush and argues that time is needed to build up their relations.

As part of his strategy, Abe has pushed Japanese business to put money into Russia though there’s been only limited interest because of concern about the investment climate.

In a setback for Abe’s efforts, Russia has accelerated a military buildup on the islands. The government in Tokyo lodged a formal protest after 2,000 Russian troops held military exercises there in February.

The two leaders have now met 21 times. While they agreed to start detailed negotiations on a plan for joint economic development of the territories, 15 miles from Japan’s northern Hokkaido Island, the initiative has barely advanced because of a disagreement over whether the ventures would operate under Russian law.


© 2018 Bloomberg News

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