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Thursday, September 1, 2016, 13:14

Japan woos Russia with deeper economic ties

By Reuters

Japan woos Russia with deeper economic ties
Newly appointed Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko enters Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official residence in Tokyo on August 3, 2016.  He will double as the new Russian economy cooperation minister. (KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP)
TOKYO - Japan is hoping the lure of deeper economic ties with Russia will strengthen strategic relations, but sceptics question whether the approach will generate a breakthrough in a decades-old territorial dispute.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a business conference in Vladivostok.

He is reportedly to discuss with Putin an eight-point economic cooperation proposal, in the hope that it would create an atmosphere for realizing Putin's visit to Japan by the end of this year and advance talks with Kremlin on a territorial dispute involving four Pacific islands.

The meeting at the two-day forum in the Russian port city, which begins on Friday, will be followed by Putin's visit to Japan in December, a Russian official has said. It will be Putin's first visit since Abe took office in December 2012, although Abe has been to Russia several times.

Japan has been eyeing closer ties with Russia to counter China's growing clout, as well as its interest in Russia's natural resources. In a sign of the focus on economic ties, Abe has given his trade minister Hiroshige Seko an additional portfolio in charge of economic cooperation with Russia, the main government spokesman in Tokyo said on Thursday.

Earlier attempts to schedule a visit by Putin were derailed by Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region, which prompted Tokyo to join the United States and other Western countries in imposing sanctions on Moscow.


Japan claims sovereignty over a string of Russia-controlled western Pacific islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and Southern Kuriles in Russia.

The row over the island chain, seized by troops of the former Soviet Union at the end of World War Two, has prevented a formal peace treaty between the two countries.

Increased infrastructure investments on the disputed islands signal a clear reluctance on Russia's part to hand the islands over, James Brown, associate professor at Temple University's Japan campus, told reporters this week.

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