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Japanese Business Delegation Visits Disputed Russian-Held Island Chain

The Russian-administered island chain has been in dispute since the end of World War II. (file photo)

The leader of a Japanese delegation says he is satisfied with the results of an inspection trip to a disputed island chain that lies between Japan and Russia.

Eiichi Hasegawa, a special adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, told reporters on October 5 that Japanese business representatives in the delegation "were able to get a deeper understanding" of the situation on the islands north of Japan.

Ownership of the Russia-administered chain, known in Japan as the Northern Territories and in Russia as the Southern Kuriles, has been in dispute since the end of World War II.

The Soviet Union occupied the islands at the end of the war, forcing 17,000 Japanese inhabitants to leave, and the issue has spoiled relations between the two regional powers ever since.

The islands have a population of about 20,000 people.

Because of the dispute, a formal WWII peace treaty has yet to be signed between the two sides, who have been discussing the island issue since 1956.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in September proposed signing a World War II peace treaty with Japan by the end of the year "without preconditions."

A treaty without preconditions would leave Russia in control of the islands, something Tokyo vehemently opposes.

Abe and Putin have for the past year been discussing possible joint initiatives related to the islands, including plans for greenhouse vegetable cultivation, tourism, wind-power generation, and garbage reduction.

“We have finished discussing the planned activities in all five areas [raised in the leaders’ discussions],” Hasegawa told reporters.

“In the future, details will be worked out at the government level, and we view the prospects of it positively," he added.

Based on reporting by The Japan Times an TASS