Russia signs economic accord with Japan despite islands row

Tokyo, Nov 21 | Updated: Nov 22 2005, 05:30am hrs
Japan agreed on Monday to back Russias bid to join the World Trade Organisation, as leaders of the two country promised to work toward resolving a territorial dispute that has hampered relations for 60 years.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi agreed on Monday to expand economic ties between their two countries while seeking ways to break a deadlock over a six-decade-old territorial feud.

The row over four islands in the Pacific, known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuriles in Russia, has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from signing a peace treaty after World War Two. With no quick solution in sight, however, both leaders were keen to use the symbolism of this years 150th anniversary of trade relations to boost trade between Japan, Asias No. 1 economy, and Russia, the worlds No. 2 oil exporter.

On the Northern Territories, there are differences of opinions and gaps. But weve agreed to overcome these gaps and seek a solution to this important issue in the context of expanding Japan-Russia cooperation, Koizumi told a joint news conference after the two leaders met.

The two leaders also agreed to start ministerial talks on security issues, Koizumi said after they signed a packet of accords including one on counter-terrorism and another on Japans support for Moscows entry into the World Trade Organisation. Putin said the lack of a peace treaty hampered trade and investment but added, I agree with my colleague (Koizumi) that we will do everything to solve this problem.

Thats why I have come here. Earlier in the day, Putin urged Japanese investors to put more money into Russias economy and said better economic ties would help overall relations. Expanding the geography of our business relations will help us expand our ties in general, he told a gathering of some 500 Russian and Japanese business executives. Russian firms like gas giant Gazprom and state oil company Rosneft attended the gathering, as well as Toyota Motor Corp. and other Japanese firms that have spearheaded a wave of Japanese investment in Russias growing economy.