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Russia: Putin Holding Talks With Japanese Premier

Moscow, 10 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Russian President Vladimir Putin are opening talks on bilateral relations and other issues in Moscow today. Koizumi said when he arrived in Moscow yesterday that Russia could play a key role in defusing the nuclear-weapons dispute in North Korea. The situation escalated today when North Korea announced that it is withdrawing from a global nuclear-arms treaty. Koizumi said he will discuss the matter with Putin.

Putin and Koizumi are also expected to sign a declaration that lays the framework for broad cooperation on a range of issues from diplomacy to economics. The "Financial Times" reported that Putin and Koizumi are expected to sign an agreement to cooperate on a 4,000-kilometer-long pipeline to export oil from Siberia to East Asia.

The declaration is also likely to include a vow by both sides to continue efforts to finalize a formal peace treaty dating back to the end of World War II. The treaty has been held up by a long-standing dispute over four islands off the north of Japan seized by Soviet forces at the end of the war. But correspondents say Putin and Koizumi are unlikely to make any headway on what the Russians call the Kurile Islands and the Japanese call the Northern Territories.

Earlier today, Koizumi paid his respects at the Moscow theater seized by Chechen gunmen last October. More than 100 people died after Russian special forces pumped knockout gas into the theater and stormed inside to rescue the hostages. Koizumi placed a wreath at the theater, which is scheduled to reopen next month.