Seeking to mend fences, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has reached out to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for a summit meeting as he renewed his call for progress on an elusive World War II peace treaty.
Japan and Russia have never officially struck a peace accord more than after 70 years after the end of the conflict amid a territorial dispute over four Japanese islands seized by Soviet troops at the war’s conclusion.
“President Putin and I share the view that it is abnormal for our nations not to have a peace treaty 70 years since” the war, Mr Abe said at his first news conference of the year. “The issues related to the Northern Territories cannot be resolved without exchanges between the leaders,” Mr Abe added, referring to the Japanese appellation for the islands.
Hinting at a probable visit by Mr Putin to Japan, Mr Abe said: “I will continue my dialogue with President Putin when opportunities arise. We will explore the most appropriate timing for his visit to Japan.” Emphasising on the need for dialogue, Mr Abe stressed on the role that the international community should play in encouraging Russia’s participation in the world’s fight against terrorism and the Syrian crisis.
With China asserting itself in the region, Japan seems to be inching closer to Russia. As Japan seeks to be more actively involved militarily, it would look to enhance its defence cooperation with Russia, which is a leading manufacturer in the defence sector. With geopolitical tensions escalating between China and Japan, Russia could play a crucial role in maintaining stability in the region.
“It is also important that we gain Russia’s constructive engagement to deal with issues of terrorism, Syria and Iran,” Mr Abe said. Russia has been involved in Syria by launching air strikes against the Islamic State since the end of September. With Russia seeking to strengthen the regime of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and prevent Islamic State jihadists and other extremists from carrying out attacks on Russian soil, Japan is lookinh to enhance security cooperation with Russia. Playing a crucial role in Syria, Russia’s intervention has also drawn criticism, with US Secretary of State John Kerry last week expressing concern over a heavy civilian toll in Russian air strikes.
Japan has also set up a counter-terrorism intelligence unit recently and Russia’s experience and expertise will help in improving its operations.
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