Russia and Japan have been locked in a territorial dispute dating to World War II, which has prevented them from signing a peace accord. While in Japan, President Putin indicated that signing a peace treaty with Japan remains a priority for Moscow.
"If anyone thinks we're interested only in developing economic links and a peace deal is of secondary importance, that's not the case," the Russian leader said during a news conference with Abe. "For me, the most important thing is to sign a peace agreement because that would create the conditions for long-term cooperation."
Kistanov referred to this as a priority issue for Abe.
"Clearly, [the Japanese prime minister] has other issues, goals and tasks. There is the issue of future relations with the United States. There are territorial disputes with South Korea and China, but in this case no solution is in sight," he added.
Konstantin Vodopyanov, an expert at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), noted that it remained unclear whether elites in both countries will support this deal.
"There is strong opposition to Abe's policies in Japan and there is no pro-Russian lobby there," he added. "One should give Abe credit since he had firmly decided to carry out the talks despite Washington's discontent. This indicated that he really wants to make a breakthrough" when it comes to Tokyo's relations with Moscow. "This is a good thing. In any case a dialogue is better than no dialogue at all."
Vodopyanov further said that the timing for the visit was perfect. Japan appears to be deeply interested in keeping talks with Russia going. For its part, Moscow wants to encourage Japanese businesses to invest in developing the Far East and diversify its economic ties in Asia Pacific.
In addition, Putin and Abe have agreed on the idea of joint Russian-Japanese economic activities in the Kuril Islands during the two-day talks. This could have political implications.
"Mr. Abe and I supported an initiative of establishing joint economic activities on the Southern Kurils. We hope that such cooperation will contribute to creating a favorable atmosphere for the continuation of negotiations on the conclusion of a peace treaty," Putin said.
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