Report: Japan to offer Russia economic plan for disputed island chain

Special to WorldTribune.com

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Japan is ready to propose a specific plan to Russia for the joint economic development of an island chain that both countries claim, The Nikkei Asia Review reports.

According to the report published February 25, the Japanese government will propose that it promote the small, windswept islands northeast of Hokkaido as a tourist destination, with a view to attracting Japanese visitors.

View of what Russia calls the Southern Kuriles and what Japan calls its Northern Territories. / AFP

Private Japanese and Russian companies would jointly offer tourist cruises under Japan’s plan for the islands, which Moscow currently administers and calls the Southern Kuriles, but Tokyo claims and calls its Northern Territories.

Medical institutions and universities in Hokkaido would remotely provide medical services to the islands, perhaps through internet-based links.

Japan will also propose joint operation of processing facilities for salmon, abalone, and other fish catches, the report said.

Although Russia administers the islands, which have a population of about 20,000, their sovereignty remains a matter of dispute.

However, that issue will be put aside for the time being while economic issues are decided, the Nikkei report said.

The dispute over the four-island chain goes back decades.

They were seized by Soviet forces at the end of World War II, hobbling relations ever since and preventing the two countries from signing a peace treaty to formally end the war.

In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed possible joint-economic projects on the island chain, but no breakthrough was reported.

Negotiators for the two sides plan to meet again on March 18 in Tokyo to discuss proposals, Nikkei said.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and Japanese counterpart Takeo Akiba are expected to lead the talks.

They are hoping to reach agreement on details before Abe and Putin meet later in the year, Nikkei said.

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