A Kremlin spokesman has said, following this Monday’s high-level talks on the belated peace treaty with Japan that Moscow will protect the interests of its nationals living on the disputed Kuril islands.
"There can be no question of hurting the interests of our nationals living on the Kuril islands”, Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with Russia's Argumenty i Fakty weekly media outlet on Wednesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had agreed to find wording that would be acceptable for people in both countries, Peskov said, calling the absence of the treaty “absurd.”
The fact that Japan and Russia have never signed a permanent peace treaty after the end of World War II has long been a stumbling block in Russia-Japan relations. The main issue standing in the way of a treaty is an agreement concerning a group of four islands that both countries claim — Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai, collectively referred to as the Southern Kurils by Russia and the Northern Territories by Japan.
"There are some issues on which we have different views, but it is necessary for the both sides to search for common ground during future talks", Kono told reporters on Monday.
The Japanese minister said, however, that he could not disclose details of Monday's ministerial talks on the peace treaty, noting, however, that the sides exchanged their views and held earnest discussions.
Since Russian president's visit to Japan in December 2016, the relations between the two nations have been improving, with the two sides agreeing to develop joint projects on the disputed islands.
Since 1992, over 20,000 Japanese citizens have visited Kunashir, Shikotan, Iturup and islands of the Lesser Kuril Ridge, with 9,500 South Kuril residents going to Japan. In 2016, 802 Japanese citizens visited Russia, and 281 South Kurils residents traveled to Japan. The respective 2015 statistics totaled 761 and 299 people.
Visa-free traffic was launched between Russia’s south Kuril Islands and Japan in 1992 under an inter-governmental agreement to improve mutual understanding between the peoples of both countries. Under the program, people can travel with special inserts.