Putin and Japanese premier Abe hold two day meeting in Japan

(December 18) Russian President Vladimir Putin has been meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Putin said that Russia may relax rules to allow Japanese citizens to visit the Kurile Islands occupied by Russia near the end of World War II.

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Several of the southern Kurile Islands occupied by the Japanese were seized by the USSR in August of 1945. Japan has had an ongoing dispute with Russia since the end of the war:
Japan claims the two southernmost large islands (Iturup and Kunashir) as part of its territory, as well as Shikotan and the Habomai islets, which has led to the ongoing Kuril Islands dispute. The disputed islands are known in Japan as the country's "Northern Territories".Out of a total of 56 islands only 8 are inhabited. Japanese inhabitants were expelled after the war.
Putin said that a solution needed to be found to the dispute. He invited Abe to visit Russia. Russian officials said that a total of 68 agreements were signed between the two countries during the visit. These included a trading agreement between Russian gas giant Gazprom with Misui and Co. and Mitsubishi Corporation. The Japan Bank for International Cooperation and the Russian Direct Investment Fund signed an agreement to set up a $1 billion investment fund to promote economic cooperation between the two countries.
The two leaders had two days of talks ending Friday. While there was no big breakthrough on the Kurile islands issue, there were numerous economic deals. The two did agree on talks regarding joint economic activities on the disputed islands. There has not yet been a peace treaty signed between the two countries. Abe said that he and Putin had taken an important step towards a peace treaty but that concluding one would not be easy.
Abe said:"The issue won’t be solved if each of us just make their own case. We need to make efforts toward a breakthrough so that we don’t disappoint the next generation. We need to set aside the past and create a win-win solution for both of us."Putin also stressed the importance of a peace agreement:"If anyone thinks we’re interested only in developing economic links and a peace deal is of secondary importance, that’s not the case. For me, the most important thing is to sign a peace agreement because that would create the conditions for long-term co-operation."
Protesters in trucks with loudspeakers drove through streets near the talks on Friday shouting "Return the Islands" and "Putin Go Home." Abe hopes to settle the dispute and seeks better relationships with Russia to counter China's rising power. The Japanese opposition noted the lack of progress on the territorial dispute.


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