Japan, Russia agree on economic ties; stalemate on territory
Dec 19 2016 by Johnny Bowman
The declaration says Russian Federation will hand over Shikotan and the Habomai group, two of four disputed islands controlled by Moscow but claimed by Tokyo, after conclusion of a post-World War II peace treaty with Japan.
For Putin, the summit meeting was his first official visit to a G-7 country since Russian Federation annexed Crimea in 2014.
"From my father (former Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe - TASS) I learnt that when you solve any problem there is the need to approach it with honest and serious intentions, and at talks with a partner you also need to have decisiveness and determination to communicate sincerely and seriously", Abe said.
Relations between the two leaders had been somewhat constrained by the deterioration in ties between the United States - Japan's key ally - and Russian Federation in recent years.
An agreement on joint economic development is far from a given because of the dispute over sovereignty. "We lost the war, and we feel that we were taken advantage of", he said.
Former island resident Koichi Iwata, 87, told Japanese public broadcaster NHK that change won't come easily. Similar ideas in the past have failed because of that.
The two countries also exchanged a number of broader economic, cultural, science and sports cooperation agreements.
"Concerns that economic cooperation will bilk Japan remain, and that no concrete way to make progress on the islands issue was found is really too bad", she added in a statement.
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Mr. Abe has pledged to resolve the territorial dispute in the hope of leaving a significant diplomatic legacy and building better ties with Russian Federation to counter a rising China.
Of great interest is the project linking Russian Federation and Japan by railroad, RZD Vice President Vyachesalv Pavlovsky said, adding that the estimated cost of building a railroad between the continent and Sakhalin will be around 400 billion rubles (about $644 million).
After the news conference, Abe and Putin spoke at a Japan-Russia business forum and visited a judo center before Putin's departure.
Meanwhile, judo fan Putin wrapped up his visit at a judo hall in Tokyo.
"I believe, from a long-term prospect, that we could achieve a historic resolution", he said.
"It would be naive to think we can solve this problem in an hour, but there is no doubt that we need to look for a solution, " Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a news conference with Abe at the end of two relatively short meetings Thursday night and Friday.
Abe said he and Putin also agreed to start discussing ways for former Japanese residents of the islands to visit their hometowns freely.