Tokyo plans to promote economic activity with Russia in Southern Kurils

Tokyo, Mar 25 (Bureau) Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi on Thursday confirmed Tokyo’s intentions to promote joint economic activities with Russia in the disputed Southern Kuril Islands. Speaking at the country’s parliament, Motegi reminded that he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during talks in October had agreed that it was necessary to promote cooperation in five areas — seafood production, agriculture, tourism, waste recycling and wind energy. Two projects in the tourism and recycling areas have already been implemented.

“We want to promote joint economic activity in such a way that it would not breach both countries’ legal position,” Motegi stressed. The Japanese minister added that economic cooperation could be used as a vehicle for settling the long-lasting territorial dispute between the two nations and signing a peace treaty. “We want to promote talks on solving the territorial issue and concluding a peace agreement on the basis of joint economic activity. Experts and working groups are having online meetings on each of the projects,” Motegi said when asked if the coronavirus pandemic slowed down activities on that track.

Relations between Moscow and Tokyo have long been complicated by the fact that the two nations have never signed a permanent WWII peace treaty. The main issue holding the two countries back is their dispute over a group of four Kuril islands — Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, and Habomai. Russia has sovereignty over these islands and regards them as part of its Sakhalin region, but they are also claimed by Japan. Since the beginning of his tenure as Japan’s foreign minister, Motegi has been trying to increase the number of contacts with Russia. Among the main items on his agenda are negotiations with Moscow regarding the territorial dispute and signing a peace treaty.