Better Russia-Japan ties possible without Kurils resolution: Koizumi
Updated: 2005-11-14 10:17
Resolving a 60-year-old row over four disputed Pacific islands would
significantly boost ties between Japan and Russia, Japanese Prime Minister
Junichiro Koizumi said in an interview.
But the Japanese leader noted that a resolution on the four southernmost
Kuril islands was not a precondition for improving bilateral relations, in an
interview on Russian television a week ahead of Russian President Vladimir
Putin's planned visit to Tokyo.
"I am not saying that we should not develop bilateral relations before the
territorial problem is sorted out," Koizumi told Rossia, Russia's second public
He added that resolving the row over the four islands -- the Kuril chain
separates the Sea of Okhotsk from the North Pacific Ocean and lie between
Russia's Kamchatka peninsula and the Japanese island of Hokkaido -- would "open
the way to a tremendous strengthening of relations."
"In principle, I am optimistic, but not to the extent of hoping to solve this
question during a single meeting.
"Obviously, one would like this meeting (with Putin) to allow things to move
forward a step or two," he added.
Extensive negotiations between Moscow and Tokyo since the fall of the Soviet
Union in 1991 have failed to resolve the Kuril dispute.
The Soviet army seized the islands after Japan's capitulation in World War II
and the dispute has prevented Russia and Japan signing a peace treaty formally
Earlier this year, Putin had to scrap plans for a visit to Tokyo in February
after a diplomatic dispute between the two sides.
Russia offered to hand over two of the islands but Japan insisted on all four
islands in return for a promise not to expel Russian