Business mission in Kuril Islands signals a new era for Russia and Japan
Delegation of 69, including the representatives of 32 private companies, state and municipal structures arrived in the Southern Kurils.
The group is assessing the prospects of joint business ventures on four Kuril islands over which Japan has longstanding territorial claims, which have prevented a permanent peace agreement between the two countries from the end of the Second World War.
The visit signals not a solution to this but perhaps a sign that Russia and Japan are ready for new thinking on the dispute.
Governor of Russia's Sakhalin region Oleg Kozhemyako said: 'This is the first time the islands receive such a large and high-level business mission from Japan.
'This is a great step in developing bilateral relations and specifying important parameters for further joint activities in the Southern Kurils. For our part, we will put in all efforts to make the Japanese and Russian businessmen's work on the islands comfortable.'
Kozhemyako has proposed a new special zone for joint economic activity with Japan on islands. The proposed zone would be based on 'common international rules' rather than Russian law, he said.
'We will need an organisation to administer land zoning and infrastructure provision,' Kozhemyako said.
Eiichi Hasegawa, the Japanese prime minister's special adviser who leads the Japanese delegation, said the delegation was trying to 'find as many areas of common interests as possible' during their trip.
'The specific projects cannot be formed until we find out the situation on the ground, that is why this trip is a great step forward,' he said. 'We intend to carry out a very detailed research and find hidden opportunities.
'This research is necessary to accelerate implementation and fill the agreements, reached by the two states' leaders, with content.'
On Wednesday, Japanese visitors saw the Kunashir fishing industry enterprises plus the region's energy, healthcare, retail and tourist facilities.
In Japan the islands of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai are called the Northern Territories. They have been part of Russia since the end of the war.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Tuesday: 'The fact that the Japanese and the Russians are painting the future of the four northern islands together points to the growing understanding and confidence between the two countries.'
The visit is being held in line with agreements reached during the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Moscow on April 27. Reported by Siberia Times.
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