04/29/2013, 00.00
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After 10 years a Japanese prime minister visits Moscow. Agenda: energy and the Kurile

Japan and Russia never signed a peace treaty after World War II on issues of sovereignty of a small group of islands near Hokkaido. Shinzo Abe will then visit the Middle East to look for new energy sources.

Moscow (AsiaNews / Agencies) - After ten years of diplomatic stalemate, the Japanese and Russian governments are preparing to jump-start economic, energy and diplomatic relation. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived this morning in Moscow and is "ready" to announce together with Russian President Vladimir Putin a re-launch of the talks over the sovereignty of the southern Kurile, a group of islands at the center of a diplomatic dispute born at the end of World War II .

The trip to Russia is the first leg of a week-long mission that will bring the conservative Abe to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey. The focus of the tour is energy relations with these countries and the possibility of using the Russian pipeline - the South Stream - to bring oil and natural gas closer to the Japanese coast. Since the Fukushima disaster, Tokyo has closed its nuclear power plants and lacks energy sources which is threatening economic growth.

The first point of the dialogue between Abe and Putin regards the sovereignty of the four islands of the southern Kurile (Shikotan, Kunashiri, Etorofu and Habomai, also known in Japan as the "Northern Territories"). It is an archipelago close to Hokkaido that was occupied by the USSR at the end of 1945. Because of this stalemate Moscow and Tokyo have never signed a peace treaty. Before departing from Tokyo, Prime Minister Abe said that he "wanted to show the political will to restart the negotiations."

But, as the famous Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun notes, "the more than 100 managers of corporate Japan that are accompanying him are an important signal of the will to strengthen economic ties between the Japanese and Russian companies, to develop projects in the energy and other sectors ". This will also be the focus of Abe proposals to Middle Eastern countries: in exchange for energy infrastructure. At the moment Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are the first and the second largest supplier of oil to Japan.


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