World Economy

Japan, Russia Vow to Repair Ties

Japan, Russia Vow to Repair TiesJapan, Russia Vow to Repair Ties

Japan and Russia held their first summit in nine months in an effort to repair ties frayed by tensions over Ukraine, pledging to resume talks on reaching a peace agreement outstanding since the end of World War II.

“Relations have been developing rather successfully both in the economic and political spheres,” Russia’s President Vladimir Putin told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of their hour-long evening meeting Sunday in Beijing. “When I mention the political sphere, I also mean the resumption of our talks about concluding a peace agreement,” Bloomberg reported.

Abe set out in 2013 to improve ties with Putin to secure resources for his energy-starved economy and avoid isolation in Northeast Asia. That effort struck difficulty when Russia annexed Crimea in March this year and Japan imposed sanctions in line with its Group of Seven peers. After five summits in less than a year, the two leaders have not met formally since February.

“Your knowledge of Japanese martial arts as a judo fighter, which also means a deeper understanding of Japan itself, I think is a big plus for further development and further strengthening of Russia-Japan relations,” Abe told Putin as the two met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

 Peace Treaty

Japan and Russia have yet to sign a postwar peace treaty because of a disagreement over islands north of Hokkaido known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia. Russia declared war on Japan shortly before the end of World War II and invaded the islands, eventually expelling thousands of Japanese residents.

Signing a peace treaty would have an “extremely positive effect” on Japan’s economy, Abe told BS Fuji television in an interview on Nov. 7.

During their meeting the two leaders agreed to “continue contacts in all areas, including to continue working on the peace agreement,” Peskov told reporters in Beijing. Ukraine was discussed, with Putin giving a “rather detailed explanation” of Russia’s position and Japan’s sanctions on Russia not discussed.

“If Putin and Abe could resolve the territorial dispute, a peace treaty could finally be concluded, and Abe would rid Japan of one of its biggest outstanding legacies of World War II,” Smith said. “This would open the door to far greater possibility for cooperation in the Russian Far East where Chinese influence has been growing.”

Russia supplies about 10 percent of Japan’s gas imports, which have played a vital role since the closing of its nuclear plants following the 2011 tsunami. Total trade between the countries rose more than six-fold in a decade to $37 billion in 2013, propelling Japan to sixth place among Russia’s commercial partners, up from 12th in 2003.