Russia's Putin tells Japan's Abe: Let's sign peace deal this year

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin deliver their statements at a joint press conference following their talks in Vladivostok, Russia, on Sept 10, 2018.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin deliver their statements at a joint press conference following their talks in Vladivostok, Russia, on Sept 10, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

VLADIVOSTOK, RUSSIA (REUTERS, AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin, sitting on a stage alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, proposed on Wednesday (Sept 12) that the two men sign a peace treaty by the end of this year.

The two countries are in dispute over the four southernmost islands in the Kuril chain, known in Japan as the Northern Territories, which the Soviet Union occupied at the end of World War II but are claimed by Japan.

It kept the two countries from signing a peace accord.

"An idea has just come into my head," Mr Putin said, turning towards Mr Abe during a question and answer session at an economic forum in the Russian city of Vladivostok.

"Let's conclude a peace treaty before the end of this year, without any pre-conditions."

Mr Putin said security in the region was a key issue and that Russia was concerned by a move to establish a United States missile defence system there.

Japan decided last year that it would expand its ballistic missile defence system with US-made ground-based Aegis radar stations and interceptors.

"This is all the subject of negotiations... We have been negotiating for 70 years," Mr Putin said.

"Shinzo said let's change approaches. Okay," Mr Putin said, before proposing they sign a peace treaty.

Mr Abe, who said on Monday that talks with Mr Putin were moving towards a peace treaty, said: "We are both fully aware that it will not be easy."

On Monday, Mr Putin seemed to pour cold water on suggestions that the dispute could be resolved soon.

 

"It would be naive to think that it can be solved quickly," he said after meeting Mr Abe on the sidelines of the forum on Monday.

Mr Putin and Mr Abe have held numerous meetings over the past few years in a bid to solve the dispute over the islands. The two leaders 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 Japanese former island inhabitants to visit family graves there.