Russia's Putin says his Japan peace treaty proposal was no joke

Russia's Putin says his Japan peace treaty proposal was no joke

"This issue has been discussed for many decades, and it would be naive to think that it can be solved quickly", Putin said after meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of an economic forum in Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.

During his tightly scheduled 30-hour stay in Vladivostok, the Chinese president attended the fourth Eastern Economic Forum (EEF), held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and met with leaders of other countries in the region, among other activities.

The islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russian Federation, were seized by the Soviet Union after Japan surrendered in World War II in August 1945.

"Let's conclude a peace agreement, not now but by year's end without any preconditions", Putin said, prompting the audience to break into applause.

President Vladimir Putin suggested Wednesday that Russian Federation and Japan sign a peace treaty this year, ending World War II hostilities "without any preconditions" as a territorial dispute has led to decades of deadlock.

Japan and the Soviet Union signed a joint declaration aimed at ending wartime hostilities and restoring diplomatic ties in 1956.

"But we are ready to look for resolutions that would work for both Russian Federation and Japan, and which would be accepted by the people in both countries", he said, adding that he was sure relations would have "new impetus" following the talks.

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Russian commentator Georgy Kunadze, a former deputy foreign minister, told Ekho Moskvy radio that he believes Putin was "trolling" Abe and "does not expect anything" to result from the proposal.

A Japanese government spokesman said the country's stance had not changed. Last year, Tokyo launched a complaint over plans to lay an undersea telecom cable, linking the three disputed islands with Russia's Sakhalin Island.

The proposal means that resolving the bilateral issue on the northern territories would effectively be put aside and a conclusion of the peace treaty would happen first.

"We've been trying to solve the territorial dispute for 70 years".

Experts have to "conduct a thorough study of the possible economic output" of the project, Abe said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been pushing for a way forward in the dispute, with the two leaders holding numerous meetings and reportedly getting as close to solving the row as they have ever been.

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