Japan and Russia agreed Tuesday to continue their efforts to conclude a Japan-Russia peace treaty formally ending their World War II enmity by the end of this year, a Japanese foreign ministry official said.
The pledges came during a courtesy call on Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov according to the official, who asked not to be named.
The peace treaty issue is a footnote to the history of World War II in Asia. The Cold War ensured one remained unsigned for decades, and following the collapse of the Soviet Union a lingering territorial dispute has proved an insurmountable hurdle.
"If there are areas where Russia can compromise, we have a genuine desire to do so," the official quoted Losyukov as telling Kono. "Also, we must tell the Japanese and Russian people that a great deal of positive progress has been made (in improving relations) between our countries."
Losyukov arrived in Japan on Saturday for a meeting Monday with his Japanese counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Ryozo Kato.
He is scheduled to return to Moscow Wednesday, the Japanese foreign ministry official said.
Kato and Losyukov reaffirmed Monday that their countries would conclude a peace treaty after solving their territorial dispute over the four southern islands of the Kuril chain, occupied by Soviet troops since World War II.
The islands, lying north east of Hokkaido and claimed by Japan, where they are known as the Northern Territories, were occupied by Soviet troops in the dying days of World War II.
Under a 1956 agreement, Japan and the Soviet Union restored diplomatic relations in a joint statement which ended the state of war between them but fell short of a full-blown peace treaty.
In November 1997, the then-Russian president Boris Yeltsin and Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto agreed at a summit in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk to sign a peace treaty by the end of 2000.
But progress has since moved at a snail's pace because of the conflicting claims to sovereignty over the islands, and analysts say the chances of meeting the deadline have all but evaporated.
Kono, who is scheduled to visit Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov in Moscow from November 1 to November 4, told Losyukov he would do his utmost to resolve the territorial row to comply with the Krasnoyarsk agreement, the foreign ministry official said.
Kono's Moscow visit is aimed also at paving the way for a meeting between Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori and Russian president Vladimir Putin during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Brunei on November 15 and 16, the foreign ministry official said – TOKYO (AFP)
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