Not So Fast

Shinzo Abe asks Vladimir Putin to speed up talks on a peace treaty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok and discussed a peace treaty between Moscow and Tokyo.

Shinzo Abe asked Vladimir Putin to speed up the talks.

"We have a historical duty to sign a peace treaty," the Japanese Prime Minister said. "Let's fulfil our responsibility to history. Let's sign a peace treaty and set free the unlimited potential of our people."

"Vladimir, let’s do together everything so that we move forward all the time until we achieve this goal", Mr Abe added.

Mr Abe said that he had so many meetings with Mr Putin that they "ate a pound of salt together".

The Russian president, however, seemed reluctant to rush. The issue of a peace treaty between Russia and Japan, he said, concerns not only their bilateral relations but also the United States.

"There are issues of military and defence nature, the issues of security, and here we should take into account the position of third countries and Japan's commitment to third countries, including the U.S.," Vladimir Putin said.

“And with them - remember the expression from the 1920s and 1930s - a kind word and a Smith & Wesson is more effective than just a kind word. We remember this and keep this in mind”, the Russian president added.

It seems that Mr Abe and Mr Putin did not make much progress. At least, this is what Russian president’s aide Yuri Ushakov said. According to him, the negotiations are "in roughly the same state".

He also noted that Vladimir Putin and Shinzo Abe will hold an in-depth exchange of opinions at the APEC summit, which will be held in November in Chile.

For many years, Russia and Japan have been unable to resolve the issue of a peace treaty. It is generally believed that the main problem is the dispute over the Kuril Islands.

Japan claims Kunashir, Shikotan, Iturup and Habomai, a group of islands off Japanese island Hokkaido. Tokyo refers to the Treaty of Shimoda. This treaty, concluded by the Russian Empire and Japan in 1855, transferred the four islands to Japan.

Moscow insists that Russian sovereignty over the Kuril Islands is the result of the World War II.

Nevertheless, Russia is ready to discuss a peace treaty with Japan on the basis of the Soviet–Japanese Joint Declaration of 1956. Article 9 of the declaration states that the Soviet Union agreed, after the conclusion of a peace treaty, to hand over to Japan the Habomai and the Shikotan Islands.

Yet, the real problem is that Russia needs guarantees of Japan’s neutral status. For Russia, it is unacceptable that Japanese territory can be used by the United States to create a threat to Russian security.