Russian president arrives in Japan

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The Independent Online

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Japan on Sunday for talks on economic cooperation and a territorial dispute that Japan has said is a condition for signing a peace treaty.

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Japan on Sunday for talks on economic cooperation and a territorial dispute that Japan has said is a condition for signing a peace treaty.

Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori were to meet Monday and Tuesday in part to try and settle conflicting claims over the Russian-controlled Kuril Islands - known in Japan as the Northern Territories.

The four islands off Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido were seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II, and the dispute has prevented the countries from signing a peace treaty ever since.

Though Russia and Japan aim to sign a peace treaty by year's end, a statement by Putin earlier Sunday indicates that they are still far from resolution.

"Has someone really ever said that the government of the Russian Federation plans to give up the Kurils?" Putin said before flying to Japan.

"We are conducting negotiations. We are talking about only a discussion of the issue as such, and no more than that," he said, according to the Interfax news agency.

Territorial disputes aside, the Kremlin hopes that Putin's trip will give a boost to economic ties.

Russian and Japanese officials plan to sign a dozen agreements, including a program on developing trade and economic relations and a separate document on joint efforts to aid the economic development of the Kuril Islands.

Putin and Mori are also expected to sign agreements to address cooperation in the energy field, Japanese assistance in dismantling Russian nuclear arsenals and strengthening cooperation between the two nations' border guards.

It will be Putin's third meeting with Mori this year and his second visit to Japan as president. He attended the Group of Eight summit of world leaders in July.

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