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26 Apr, 2008 10:20

Russia ready to knit up WW2 hostilities with Japan

President Vladimir Putin says Russia is ready to continue talks on the signing of a peace treaty with Japan, which would formally end World War II hostilities. He was speaking during talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who’s on his first offi

The outgoing Russian leader said relations between the two countries have improved significantly in the last couple of years. However the long-running territorial dispute over the Kuril Islands remains the largest obstacle to signing the peace deal.

During his visit to Moscow, Fukuda has also held talks with Russian President-elect, Dmitry Medvedev.

The two discussed preparations for the G8 Summit on the Japanese island of Hokkaido in July.

Issues affecting Russia – Japan relations

Relations between Russia and Japan have never been easy, and the Kuril Islands are the rocks, on which they split.

At the end of WW2 the Soviet Army seized the islands and proclaimed them Soviet territory. Japan has wanted their return ever since. The two countries have still not signed a peace treaty.

In 1956, the sides issued a joint declaration, which worked towards developing relations and trade. Russia then agreed to hand over two islands, but only when the peace treaty is signed.

“Two islands for Russia it's the final point of the discussion, while for Japan it's just the starting point,” says Vasily Mikheev, the Director of the China and Japan Studies Centre.

Another sticky point on the agenda is the U.S. plan to deploy part of its missile defense system in Japan. According to Russia it might whip up the arms race. But it’s eager to consider a compromise.

Although there are issues that outweigh the political agenda, economic co-operation is growing rapidly.

The sides will continue to search for solutions on the fringes of the G8 summit. For Prime Minister Fukuda it will be the first summit, and also for Dmitry Medvedev who will, by then, be president.

For Putin G8 summit in Japan was the first one, now it is for Medvedev as well.