Russia and Japan agreed economic cooperation on disputed islands

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend the signing of a package of business agreements in Tokyo, after agreed to seek economic cooperation for development of the disputed islands between the both countries.

“During the five hours of debate, the two leaders discussed the special system of joint economic activity of four islands and a peace agreement”, said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The disagreements over the sovereignty of four islands – known as the Northern Territories in Japan and Southern Kurils in Russia, deter both sides from signing a formal peace agreement for seven decades.

“Putin and Abe ordered to their representatives to begin detailed negotiations on the terms and form of economic cooperation on the islands”, said foreign policy adviser of Russia, Yuri Ushakov. “The joint plans in areas such as medicine, tourism and fisheries will be implemented on the basis of Russian legislation, since the islands belong to Russia”, added he.

The sixteenth summit between the two representatives comes at an important time for both countries. Russia is experiencing dire need of investment and trade amid lower oil prices and international sanctions over its actions in Ukraine. Japan, meanwhile, is trying to diversify its energy sources after its nuclear energy is in a difficult position because the consequences of the disaster in Fukushima in 2011.

The deals between Russia and Japan includes joint fund of 1 billion USD for investments in Russian projects, including energy and infrastructure over the next three to five years.

A key figure in improving the relations between the both countries is the sovereignty of the four islands that the Soviet Union invaded at the end of World War II, expelling all 17,000 Japanese citizens. The official position of Japan is that the islands, where there are rich fishing areas, are an integral part of its territory and are under illegal occupation.

“We discussed the possibility of former residents of the islands to visit their old homes”, said Abe, adding that betrayed Putin letters from some of them, including one written in Russian.

Abe told a group of former residents of the islands that he is motivated to solve the problem. Putin was more cautious when he told Japanese media in an interview that the two sides can build trust through economic activities that cover the island and that talks on the dispute can not be limited to his time mandate or those of Abe.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told that his ministry has prepared 23 agreements and memorandums between Russian and Japanese companies. Among them are Russia’s Novatek, Rosneft and Gazprom and Japan’s Mitsui & Co, Marubeni and Tokyo Electric Power.

The two countries discussed 65 transactions covering a number of sectors such as energy, infrastructure and health care. Japanese investment in Russia increased by 51% in 2015, although total foreign investment declined by over 70%.

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