|Russian President Vladimir Putin met Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in St. Petersbourg, 02/12/2016. REUTERS/Dmitri Lovetsky
The Japan-Russia relationship has been complicated by territorial disputes. Their diplomatic, political, security, and economic relations have been strained. A territorial dispute over the Kuril islands, which Japan calls “the northern territories”, prevented the two countries from signing a peace deal after World War II.
Russia-Japan ties have warmed recently through accelerating exchanges of high-ranking visits including President Putin’s most-awaited visit to Japan next week. The visit is expected to remove obstacles in the dispute over the Kuril islands, promote the signing of a peace deal and pave the way for bilateral economic cooperation, particularly in Russia’s Far Eastern region.
At meetings with President Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during his visit to Russia earlier this month, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan hopes to sign a peace deal with Russia and settle the Kuril issue. During his visit to Russia in May, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for strengthening economic ties with Russia. It was not the first time Abe made such a call. In 2007, he asked Russia to enhance economic cooperation with Japan in the hope of settling their territorial dispute.
In his 13th State of the Nation Address on December 1, Putin said he hopes for more progress in bilateral ties with Japan and praised Japan’s proposal on economic cooperation. At a meeting with Mr. Kishida, Mr. Lavrov said it’s important to seek an acceptable solution to the territorial dispute.