No Japan peace deal with Russia 'till island row settled'

"Japan still maintains its stance that it will resolve territorial issues before signing a peace treaty," said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
"Japan still maintains its stance that it will resolve territorial issues before signing a peace treaty," said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday again ruled out any peace treaty with Russia unless a resolution can first be reached in a territorial dispute over four islands north of Hokkaido.

It came two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin caught him off guard at an economic forum in Vladivostok by saying the two countries ought to sign a peace deal by year-end and without any pre-conditions.

"Japan still maintains its stance that it will resolve territorial issues before signing a peace treaty," Mr Abe said on Thursday.

This position, he added, has been communicated clearly to Mr Putin before and after he made the proposal. Mr Abe said: "We must be open to the embedded message in President Putin's words. There's no denying he has indicated his view that a peace treaty was necessary."

Japan and Russia have not signed a peace treaty in the 73 years since the end of World War II due to their stand-off over the disputed islands, collectively known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia. They were seized by the former Soviet Union in the closing days of the war.

The two countries have agreed to conduct joint economic activities on and around the disputed islands. But progress has been slow as they have yet to iron out the details of a special arrangement such that the projects, in five areas including tourism and aquaculture, do not compromise their respective sovereign claims to the islands.

Mr Abe said yesterday their upcoming meetings in November and December will be important to the trust-building process.

Walter Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2018, with the headline 'No Japan peace deal with Russia 'till island row settled''. Print Edition | Subscribe