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The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Toyko
"Mr Putin made it clear in the talks he had no intention of surrendering sovereignty"
 real 56k

Takashi Inoguchi,Tokyo University
"Putin's visit has contrasted the differences between the two governments"
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Monday, 4 September, 2000, 18:42 GMT 19:42 UK
Putin rejects Kuril agreement with Japan
Putin and Mori in talks
Talks towards a peace treaty appear unlikely to succeed
President Vladimir Putin has told Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori that Moscow is not ready hand over four disputed islands close to Japan's coast, according to reports.

Mr Putin is in Tokyo for three days of talks aimed at establishing a formal peace treaty and improving trade ties.

Kuril islands
The two countries have set the end of this year as the deadline for a treaty ending a state of hostility dating back to World War II as a result of competing claims to the islands which Japan calls its Northern Territories and Russia administers as its Southern Kurils.

Correspondents suggest that a formal peace treaty is unlikely without an agreement on the islands and this year's deadline may have to be dropped.

Irreconcilable positions

According to a Japanese Government official who took part in Monday's talks, the Russian leader said that Moscow was not ready to settle the territorial dispute.

Dispute facts
Occupied by Soviet troops in the dying days of World War II
Japan and the Soviet Union restored diplomatic relations in 1956, but a formal peace treaty was never signed because of the dispute
The islands have rich fishing grounds
Controlling the islands gives Russia access to the Pacific Ocean
The official told the Associated Press that Japanese proposals were welcomed, but did not correspond to the Russian ideas.

Japan had proposed that its borders be expanded to include the islands.

Russia is proposing that an interim peace deal be struck that sidelines the territorial dispute for now.

The BBC's Charles Scanlon in Tokyo says few now believe that the 2000 deadline for signing a peace deal can be met.

However, Japan is keen to continue improving relations in the hope that they will lead to Russian concessions at a later stage.

Trade

Russia and Japan on Monday signed a document aimed at promoting joint economic co-operation in the Kurils.

On wider trade concerns, Russian reports say that Mr Mori warned Mr Putin that Japanese investors were wary of doing business in Russia.

Ludmila Outin in Tokyo
Mrs Ludmila Putin is fitted in Japanese national dress
Tokyo has often complained in the past of corruption, a shaky legal framework and heavy, often contradictory tax rules.

The two leaders are due to resume talks on Tuesday.

Robot dog

Mr Mori presented Mr Putin with a robotic dog called Puti on Monday.

The gleaming metallic robot puppy was given to Mr Putin to ease his fatigue, according to a Japanese foreign ministry official.

When stroked, the dog sings the Russian national anthem and a folk song, and can speak a little Russian.

Also on Monday, Japanese protesters drove through Tokyo's streets demanding the return of the disputed islands.

One convoy of trucks carried a loudspeaker which blared simply: "Give them back."

Several government buildings had to be sealed off by police.

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See also:

03 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Putin confronts Kurils dispute
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
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