20 March 2017

News Story: Japan, Russia hold 1st talks on joint activities on disputed isles & Japan, Russia to start working on concrete projects on disputed isles

Japan, Russia hold 1st talks on joint activities on disputed isles

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Senior officials of Japan and Russia met Saturday for the first talks on possible joint economic development of islands off Hokkaido controlled by Moscow but claimed by Tokyo, in an effort to resolve the long-standing row surrounding the territory.

The focus is on how the two sides can agree on a special framework and conduct economic activities without adversely affecting their respective legal stances on the sovereignty of the islands.

"It is important to constructively discuss the future image of the four islands," Deputy Foreign Minister Takeo Akiba said at the outset of talks with his Russian counterpart Igor Morgulov, referring to the disputed islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group.

The row over the islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia, has prevented the two countries from signing a post-World War II peace treaty.

Akiba said Japan hoped to make progress toward the conclusion of a peace treaty in such a way that the countries' "respective legal stances are not infringed."

Read the full story at The Mainichi


Japan, Russia to start working on concrete projects on disputed isles

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan and Russia agreed Saturday to begin working on specific projects involving joint economic activity on Russian-held isles claimed by Japan, in the hope such efforts will lead to signing a postwar peace treaty.

In the first senior officials' meeting on the issue, the two sides proposed concrete projects in areas such as healthcare and fisheries. But they still need to work out a legal arrangement so as not to undermine their rival claims to sovereignty over the islands.

Yet even if joint economic activities begin, that would not guarantee talks on settling the territorial dispute will move forward, as Russia staunchly maintains the isles off Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido are its legitimate territory, and appears more interested in economic gains, Japanese analysts said.

At the outset of talks and the portion open to the media, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov said any joint economic activities need to proceed in a way that "does not contradict Russian laws." He also said the proposals made by Russia are designed to contribute to the "social and economic development" of the islands.

A Japanese official said Russia had proposed a project to rebuild decaying houses on the islands.

Japanese officials declined to comment on the projects they presented. But earlier government sources had said Japan would propose that Japan and Russia jointly offer advanced medical services on the disputed islands, and ferry tours of the islands for tourists.

Read the full story at The Mainichi