Seventy years after the end of the Second World War, Russia and Japan have their eyes firmly on the rewards of peace as they negotiate a mutually beneficial solution to their dispute over the islands known in Tokyo as the Northern Territories and in Moscow as part of the Kurils.
The dispute has prevented the two parties from formally signing a peace treaty because Japan lays claim to four islands which became part of the Soviet Union when fighting ended in 1945.
Russian president Vladimir Putin’s visit to Japan in December last year marked a major thawing in relations which was emphasised by a further bilateral meeting last week. He and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe have pledged to increase economic co-operation and improve access to former residents of the islands as they seek a long-term arrangement.
This month, a joint mission from the two countries will visit the islands with the aim of establishing a template for future co-operation. And later in the summer, former residents will be able to travel on a visit to their homelands for the first time by aircraft.
“Historically Russia has been a very important to Japan, and I think the situation is the same for Russia. It’s an important partner for stability in the Asia Pacific region,” Japan’s foreign press secretary Norio Maruyama told Euronews.
“Everyone knows that it’s no easy thing” to conclude the peace treaty, Maruyama said. “But for it to happen we need a new approach and this approach was launched by the visit of president Putin to Tokyo.”
“It’s a concrete new approach. That is to say, we are not too much in the past, we are planning the future.”