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Russia, Japan Hold First Summit In Decade

Analysts say President Vladimir Putin is seeking better ties with Japan to counter China's economic rise as well as the U.S. "pivot" to the Pacific.
Analysts say President Vladimir Putin is seeking better ties with Japan to counter China's economic rise as well as the U.S. "pivot" to the Pacific.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Moscow later today, the first meeting between leaders of the two countries in a decade.

Talks are expected to focus on a territorial dispute that has prevented the nations signing a treaty to end World War II.

The dispute centers on four small islands in the Pacific, known as the Southern Kuriles in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan.

The Soviet Union seized them after declaring war on Japan in August 1945 and just days before Tokyo surrendered. The islands are near rich fishing grounds.

A Japanese government source told Kyodo News on April 28 that Abe and Putin were expected to release a joint statement after today's meeting confirming they would restart talks on the disputed territory.

After Abe took office in December, he and Putin agreed to restart talks on signing a peace treaty after finding a solution to the territorial dispute.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss possible Japanese participation in the building of a pipeline connecting East Siberian gas fields and a planned $38 billion Vladivostok gas hub built by state-controlled Russian export monopoly Gazprom.

Japan is the largest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Analysts say Tokyo sees Russia as a strategic partner as it looks to diversify and cut the costs of LNG imports, which went up sharply after the 2011 disaster at its Fukushima nuclear plant.

Commentators say Russia is looking to strengthen its position in Asia, amid the economic rise of China and Washington's "pivot" to the Pacific. Russia could use Japanese money and know-how to develop its sparsely populated Far East.

Putin and Abe will also discuss other possible business deals.

Abe is being accompanied by a 120-strong business delegation.

Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko told Reuters that Japan wants to sign up to 20 memoranda of understanding between Japanese and Russian companies during the visit, but that a major deal on the Vladivostok project was unlikely.

Based on AFP and Reuters reporting

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