MOSCOW (Sputnik) — On April 27, Russian President Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Abe held a meeting, during which Putin promised to organize a trip for a group of Japanese officials and business leaders to the southern Kurils, while Abe noted he was ready to move forward with the matter of signing a Russia-Japan peace treaty. The group, comprising between 50 and 60 people, is supposed to examine the opportunities regarding Russia and Japan's joint economic activities on the disputed islands, which Japan calls the Northern Territories.
"In the end of this month the Northern Territories will be visited by the research group", Abe said at a press conference broadcast by NHK.
Abe noted that he wanted the research to be "important from the perspective of further implementation of projects, in particular, in fishery and tourism."
Russian-Japanese relations have long been complicated by the fact that the two nations have never signed a permanent peace treaty after World War II ended. This was due to a disagreement over a group of four islands claimed by both countries: Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai.
On December 15-16, Russian President Putin paid a two-day working visit to Japan. During the visit to Nagato, Abe's home town, two leaders discussed joint economic activity on the Kuril Islands. In February, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said at the first panel meeting of the interdepartmental council on joint economic activities with Russia that the areas of economic cooperation would include fishing, tourism, health care and ecology.
Putin and Abe are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the upcoming G20 summit, which will be held in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7-8.