MOSCOW – Russia’s President Vladimir Putin underlined the stability of his country’s relationship with Japan despite an ongoing territorial dispute and said Moscow was open to rejoining the G7 should the offer be extended, something Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he would address.
Putin and Abe met at the Eastern Economic Forum, which is held annually in the city of Vladivostok on Russia’s Pacific coast.
“At the time, the last G8 meeting was going to be held in Russia. We remain open and if our partners want to come, we would be delighted,” Putin told the plenary session of the Forum. “We did not postpone it, our partners did.”
Russia was kicked out of the G8, which for now is known as the G7, over its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
Except for the United States, the remaining members, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, have all agreed that it was too soon to readmit Russia to the club.
Donald Trump has expressed his willingness to welcome Russia back.
“It is always a positive exchange of opinion, even when voices are raised. From what I understand, this is what happened this time (during the G7 meeting in Biarritz, France, in August) and it still remains useful. For that reason, we never turn down any sort of cooperation.”
Abe, representing the only Asian member of the G7, said he would broach the topic at the Eastern Economic Forum, which this year includes visits from India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, as well as the Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, and the Mongolian president, Khaltmaa Battugla.
“Russia plays an important role in resolving international problems,” Abe said.
He and Putin met on the sidelines of the Forum earlier in the day, where they discussed the ongoing – and, as yet, fruitless – talks on the disputed Kuril Islands, an island chain that stretches from northern Japan to Russia’s Pacific coast.
Japan claims sovereignty to three islands and a group of islets that form part of the Kuril Islands’ southernmost points located close to the northern tip of Hokkaido.
But Russia has so far stood firm on its jurisdiction claims to the territories, which were annexed by the Soviet Union in the final years of the war 1945 in a move that Moscow says was justified by an international treaty six years later.
“Let’s both take responsibility for history. Let’s conclude a peace treaty and unleash the unlimited potential our citizens have,” Abe said.
Putin, in turn, said the issue was draped in complex “ingredients.”
“There are questions of defense and security. We have to take into account the position of third-party countries, including Japan’s obligations to third-party countries, like the United States,” he said.
Progress towards a solution to the World War II-era dispute took a blow on Wednesday when Putin said he would beef up Russia’s missile systems in the northern Kurils.
During the plenary, Putin alluded rumors that the US was planning on deploying short to medium distance missile systems in Japan, a notion that was quickly downplayed by Abe.
“With regards to US missile deployment in Japanese territory, that proposal from the US hasn’t happened,” Abe told the Forum.
“I want this to be clear, what we have deployed in Japan, belongs to Japan,” he said.
Putin recalled Washington’s expressed desires to deploy missiles to either South Kora and Japan.
“This does not fill us with joy, rather it hurts us and causes us concern,” he said.
“If they are deployed, in Japan and South Korea, we understand it would be done with the stated aim to confront the threat of North Korea, but it would create some serious and concrete problems for us.”
The Eastern Economic Forum is due to wrap up on Friday.