Japanese FM To Visit Moscow For Talks On Disputed Islands

Russia’s Foreign Ministry says Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono plans to visit Moscow next week for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the four Pacific islands that have been disputed since World War II.

“The first round of Russian-Japanese consultations on the conclusion of a peace treaty between the two countries will be held in Moscow on January 14,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on January 11.

The visit comes after Russia accused Japan this week of whipping up tensions before an expected meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Moscow and Tokyo never signed a peace treaty after World War II due to the territorial dispute over the Pacific island chain, which was occupied by Soviet forces in the final days of the war.

Russia refers to the islands as the Southern Kuriles and Japan calls them the Northern Territories.

Soviet forces seized the islands at the end of the war, and Russia continues to occupy and administer the territory, although it has allowed some visits by former Japanese residents and family members in recent years.

Zakharova blamed Japanese media for “playing a significant role in creating a strange information atmosphere that precedes the beginning of a negotiation process.”

Earlier this week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it had summoned Japanese Ambassador Toyohisa Kozuki and told him recent statements by Tokyo represented an apparent attempt to “artificially incite the atmosphere regarding the peace-treaty problem and try to enforce its own scenario of settling the issue.”

The ministry cited Tokyo’s remarks about the need to prepare island residents for a return of the chain to Japan and about dropping demands for Moscow to pay compensation to former Japanese residents of the islands. It also took issue with Abe’s comments that 2019 would see a breakthrough in the negotiations.

Putin and Abe last met in November and agreed to accelerate talks to formally end World War II hostilities.

Based on reporting by AFP and Interfax