Putin Calls For End of Kuril Islands ‘Ping Pong’ With Japan

Putin Abe
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe share a light moment during their visit at Kodokan judo hall in Tokyo, Japan, December 16, 2016. Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool/Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called to end the “historical (game of) ping pong” between Moscow and Tokyo over the disputed Kuril islands, as he returned from his visit to Japan with the matter unresolved.

Putin made his first presidential visit to Japan on Thursday and seemed to be on good terms with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as the two discussed trade, tourism and the territorial dispute. Known as the South Kuril Islands in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, Moscow has governed the islands since invading them in World War II.

"It would be naive to believe that we will be able to settle [the dispute] overnight, but it is definitely imperative to look for a solution that would meet the strategic interests of both Russia and Japan, which is accepted by the people of both countries," Putin said.

Russia and Japan never signed a World War II peace accord because of the dispute, but according to Putin, this is an “anachronism from the past,” state news agency Itar-Tass reports.

According to Putin, the fact that Russia and Japan never signed a World War II peace accord because of the dispute is an “anachronism from the past,” state news agency Itar-Tass reports.

"In our opinion, it is necessary to end this historic [game of] ping pong with these territories, it is necessary to somehow understand that the fundamental interests of Japan and Russia require a final, long-term solution," Putin said.

“These islands, if we were to implement the [Japanese] prime minister’s plans, may no longer be a bone of contention between Russia and Japan, and, on the contrary, become something unifying for Russia and Japan," he added.

Putin and Abe agreed on broad promises of economic cooperation, increased trade and joint deals of around $2.5 billion including joint oil field development in Russia’s Sakhalin island, which is around 700km away from the Kuril islands.

Putin also invited Abe to Moscow at his convenience. The Japanese prime minister is yet to respond to his invitation.