Putin could visit Japan, as island row lingers

12th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

Russian President Vladimir Putin is just waiting for Tokyo to propose a date for him to visit Japan -- which has a festering territorial dispute with Moscow -- Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday.

"Nothing is preventing President Vladimir Putin's visit to Japan," Lavrov said. "For it to take place, the invitation that was made long ago needs to get some kind of specific date."

Lavrov added that Moscow "will consider" whatever dates Tokyo proposes, in comments to Asian media outlets according to a transcript on his ministry's website.

He added that Russia has already proposed "concrete dates" for a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and "as far as I understand, such a visit will take place in the very near future."

Lavrov was speaking as he is about to make official visits to Japan, Mongolia and China. He is scheduled to meet his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida on Friday as the two sides seek to lay the ground for a meeting between Putin and Abe.

Japanese-Russian relations have been hampered by a festering territorial dispute over four islands claimed by both countries.

Known as the Kuril Islands by Russia and the Northern Territories by Japan, the archipelago was seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II just after Japan surrendered.

The dispute has prevented the countries ever officially signing a peace treaty and hindered trade ties.

Lavrov said in January that Putin and Abe had agreed that the question of a peace treaty between their two countries was on a list of issues "to be decided."

Lavrov on Tuesday criticised Japan for joining Western countries in imposing sanctions against Moscow over the Ukraine crisis, suggesting Tokyo's foreign policy was guided by the United States and European Union.

"We understand perfectly that unfortunately, Japan is not the only country that is not fully independent in its foreign policy," he said.

© 2016 AFP

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