Hopes for Japan-Russia peace deal

The deputy foreign ministers of Japan and Russia are meeting in Moscow today to strengthen cooperative ties in a further step towards resolving a territorial dispute which stopped them from signing a peace treaty after World War II.

The meeting between Shinsuke Sugiyama and Igor Morgulov follows an agreement between Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and Russian president Vladimir Putin to restart discussions about the Northern territories (Russia calls them the Southern Kurile Islands).

Today’s meeting will be primarily focused on positive engagement, like boosting energy ties, improving defence exchanges, and discussing public and private level plans to develop eastern Siberia, but Japanese officials have hinted at the possibility of peace discussions.

Japanese-Russian relations have been strained over the islands, with former president Dmitri Medvedev becoming the first Russian leader to step foot on the isles in 2011, which former Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan called an “unforgiveable outrage”. Relations were kickstarted when Abe made an official state visit to Russia in February this year – the first time a Japanese leader had visited since 2003.