The Yomiuri ShimbunForeign Minister Taro Kono was to arrive in Moscow on Thursday for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
The Japanese government hopes to achieve tangible results in the talks, including the realization of joint economic activities in the northern territories, as it appears unlikely progress will be made in peace treaty negotiations during planned talks on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit to be held in Osaka in June.
“I would like to exchange views on bilateral issues including the conclusion of a peace treaty [with Lavrov on Friday],” Kono said at a press conference on Tuesday.
The Japanese government initially considered a scenario in which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin would hold talks on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit to reach a broad agreement on the peace treaty, which includes the issue of the northern territories, as Putin proposed in September 2018 to conclude the peace treaty within the year without preconditions.
However, the Russian side has repeatedly insisted that Japan must accept the results of World War II and little progress has been made in the negotiations. Although there had been an agreement that Lavrov would visit Japan in spring to meet Kono, coordination of the visit proved difficult.
Kono will try to find a breakthrough during the talks in Russia.
There is a belief that progress cannot be expected on the territorial issue for the time being. Japan has switched its strategy to steadily producing results through joint economic activities on the northern territories in order to promote confidence-building, which Russia has set as a condition for the peace treaty negotiations.
In April, senior-level working talks resumed for the first time in six months. Senior Deputy Foreign Minister Takeo Mori and his Russian counterpart, Igor Morgulov, discussed the joint economic activities in Tokyo.
Japan plans to reach an official agreement at the summit in June to create a mutual visa waiver program that will be needed for the joint economic activities. The foreign ministers’ meeting is expected to pave the way toward this goal.