Russian Prime Minister and presidential frontrunner Vladimir Putin said on Friday that the gradual development of economic relations with Japan would help resolve the long-running territorial spat between the two countries.
“We want to settle the territorial problem with Japan, clinch it, and do it in a manner that will be acceptable to the peoples of our countries,” Putin said at a meeting with foreign press.
The row between Russia and Japan over the South Kurils, namely Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai, known as the Northern Territories in Japan, has prevented the two countries from signing a formal peace treaty since the end of World War II.
“I think that the decision [the resolution of the territorial row with Japan will come with the growth of the volume of our cooperation...and these territorial issues will even fade into insignificance,” Putin said, adding that Russia and Japan should regard each other as sincere friends who take interest in the mutual development of their economies and contacts.
“In this context, both parties will find it easier to compromise,” Putin said.
Currently, the Russian-Japanese trade turnover is insignificant and does not reflect the true potential, Putin added.
In 2010, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sparked a diplomatic row with Tokyo by making the first ever visit by a Russian leader to the islands. He later said Russia would increase its military presence there.
Japan's then prime minister Naoto Kan called Medvedev’s visit an “inexcusable rudeness,” but Moscow said the Russian authorities would decide on their own domestic trips.