TOKYO (Sputnik) — Japan will not quit talks with Russia on joint economic projects in the South Kurils after the islands were granted the status of Russia's new "priority development area," a spokesperson at the Japanese Foreign Ministry told Sputnik on Thursday.
The initiative to give tax breaks and other benefits to resident companies in the four Pacific islands was signed into law by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The islands are also claimed by Japan, which refers to them as Northern Territories.
The spokesperson confirmed that the creation of a development zone in the South Kurils had not affected Tokyo’s decision to get economically involved in joint projects with Russia, saying, "Yes, as long as Japan’s legal position is not violated, the discussion will continue next month."
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed in December 2016 that the two nations would discuss options for joint economic activity on the islands. Tokyo has identified fishery, tourism, healthcare and ecology as its priorities for cooperation.
The row over the ownership of the islands off the southernmost tip of Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula has kept the two countries from signing a peace treaty after the end of World War Two. Russia argues its sovereignty over this territory is enshrined in international laws.