Abe not tied to visit by Putin this year

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands in the U.N. Headquarters building in New York on September 28, 2015.
PHOTO: Reuters

NEW YORK - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday in New York and indicated he is not tied to a plan for Putin to visit Japan by year-end.

Abe and Putin met in the UN Headquarters building for about 40 minutes. Concerning negotiations to sign a bilateral peace treaty to pave the way for resolution of the northern territories issue, Abe and Putin confirmed that the two governments will proceed with the negotiations based on a Japan-Russia joint statement issued in April 2013. The joint statement stipulated that the two countries will compile a measure to resolve the issue in a way that is acceptable to both sides.

Concerning when Putin will visit Japan, Abe said only, "I want to realise it [the visit] when the timing is best."

It was the first summit meeting between Abe and Putin in about 10 months. The previous meeting was on the sideline of a summit meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum held in Beijing in November last year.

At that meeting, the two leaders agreed that Putin would visit Japan at an appropriate time by the end of this year. Abe's remark this time was seen as implying that he does not feel bound to the plan for Putin to visit by year-end, though the two sides will try to realise the visit within this year.

At the beginning of the meeting, Abe said: "I was able to be reelected as president of the Liberal Democratic Party. This will allow me to engage in negotiations for the peace treaty more enthusiastically than before."

He added, "Concerning the territorial issue, we need to make progress in line with our agreement made in 2013," emphasizing that the joint statement will be the basis for the negotiations. Abe also said, "I hope preparations for the visit [of Putin] will be made in a constructive and calm atmosphere," implicitly warning against a series of visits to the northern territories by high-ranking Russian government officials, including Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Putin agreed that the negotiations for the peace treaty will be made under calm circumstances. But Putin said, "Regrettably, trade values [between Japan and Russia] have been falling."

Putin indicated his intention to ask Japanese companies to invest in Russia by saying, "I believe that economic co-operation between the two countries offers large potentials."

Abe and Putin also agreed that they will continue dialogues on such occasions as a summit meeting of Group of 20 countries in November, an APEC summit meeting and other international conferences.

For about the last 10 minutes of their meeting, Abe and Putin talked accompanied only by interpreters.

The agreement the two reached his time means that Japan and Russia will return to the points of the 2013 joint statement and resume negotiations for the peace treaty, including the northern territories issue.

The Japanese and Russian governments will hold a vice ministerial level meeting in Moscow on Oct. 8. The vice ministerial talks had been suspended since Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in southern Ukraine in March last year.