BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Asia-Pacific
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Tokyo
"The Japanese are not counting on an early breakthrough"
 real 28k

Sunday, 3 September, 2000, 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK
Putin confronts Kurils dispute
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori
A breakthrough in the islands row appears unlikely
The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has started a three-day visit to Japan expected to be dominated by talks on the future of the Kuril islands, seized by Soviet troops more than 50 years ago.

Greeting Mr Putin on his arrival at Tokyo's Haneda airport, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said there would be an "open dialogue" on many issues.

We are conducting talks. But it is not more than a discussion of the problem as such

President Vladimir Putin
The Kurils dispute has prevented Russia and Japan signing a comprehensive peace treaty since World War II.

Mr Putin said Russia's relations with Japan were better than they had been for 50 years.

"We value this fact very highly and plan to develop our relations further," Mr Putin told reporters after arriving in Tokyo.

But on the eve of his visit he appeared to rule out any return of the islands to Japan, where they are known as the Northern Territories.

Discussions but no solution

"Has anyone ever said that the Russian Government intends to give up the Kuril Islands? We are conducting talks. But it is not more than a discussion of the problem as such," the Interfax news agency quoted Mr Putin as saying.

In 1997, both countries pledged to work hard to clinch a deal by the end of this year - but so far the gap between the two sides has proved too great.

Kuril islands
The Kuril dispute dates back to 1945

The BBC correspondent in Tokyo, Charles Scanlon, says that Mr Putin is expected to prove a tougher negotiator than his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, and there is concern that his recent domestic problems will make him even less inclined to make concessions.

The islands dispute is a highly emotional issue for the Japanese, our correspondent says. But Japanese officials are not counting on an early breakthrough.

Mr Putin and Mr Mori are expected to sign several economic agreements, including a plan for development on the islands themselves.


Infrastructure has been crumbling and life is harsh for the Russians - about 15,000 in total - who inhabit the islands.

The southern Kurils
Occupied by Soviet troops in 1945
Four islands - Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and Habomai group
Situated in abundant fishing grounds
Economically deprived region

The Japanese Government has rejected calls from some Japanese politicians for a peace treaty even without an agreement on the islands.

Mr Putin hinted that no agreement on the future of the islands would be possible until Russia and Japan had boosted co-operation in other fields, like the economy.

Moscow wants Tokyo to increase investment in Russia, but that is something Japanese businessmen have so far been reluctant to do.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

30 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan gives priority to Russia
21 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Russian navy fires on Japanese boat
12 Nov 98 | Asia-Pacific
Relations thaw over Kuril Islands
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Asia-Pacific stories