Russian President Vladimir Putin (center L) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (center R) review an honor guard at Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, Dec. 16, 2016. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that the isles row between Russia and Japan can not be solved soon. (Xinhua)
TOKYO, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- Japan and Russia on Friday wrapped up a two-day summit between their top leaders but failed again to make breakthrough in a long-held sovereignty dispute which has been a major stumbling block for bilateral relations.
Putin, the first Russian president who paid a visit to Japan for a bilateral meeting in the past 11 years, met Abe in the Japanese prime minister's home prefecture of Yamaguchi and then in Tokyo for talks on territorial dispute, peace treaty issues as well as economic cooperation.
Russia and Japan have not signed a peace treaty formalizing the end of World War II mainly due to a territory row over four small islands in the Pacific which are called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia..
The two sides agreed to start consultations on joint economic activities on the four disputed islands held by Russia but claimed by Japan, saying that it would mark an important step towards reaching a postwar peace treaty between the two countries that will formally end WWII, according to a press statement released by the two governments after their leaders' meeting.
Observers here, however, have noted that no progress seems to have been made over the dispute on sovereignty of the islands, with Japan still insisting the islands are its inherent territory, while Russia urging Japan to recognize the outcome of war.
Putin stressed at a joint press conference with Abe on Friday the legitimacy of Russia's acquiring for the four Pacific islands following the WWII, though agreeing on the importance of a peace treaty.
"There are security issues," Putin said. "We have two naval bases in Vladivostok, from where our ships go out to the Pacific....We'd like the Japanese side to take all these concerns into account."
"It would be naive to think we can solve this problem in an hour," Putin said, adding that the isles row can not be solved soon.
Abe, who has been eager to make a breakthrough to the issue, brought down his tune Friday, saying that "concluding a peace treaty that has not been concluded in more than 70 years is not easy," though still vowing continued efforts to push forward the issue.
The two sides stressed that joint activities on the disputed islands will be held "under a special framework" so that it won't "infringe on the sovereignty positions of either side," and consultations on such a framework will be launched.
The lack of progress has caused disappointment and dissatisfaction among many Japanese whose hopes for solving the territorial issue has been boosted by Abe's show of determination earlier.
Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, has been quoted by the Kyodo News as saying that most people were disappointed and the party shouldn't be "pleased with this level of things."
"Japan has regarded it as an opportunity to solve the territorial disputes on the four Pacific islands. But Putin did not cave in. Japan gained nothing in this aspect," said Ling Xingguang, emeritus professor of Fukui Prefectural University.
Another focal point of the Abe-Putin summit is economic cooperation between the two countries, which has not been much in the past according to Putin.
Japan, for its part, has hoped to lure Russia to make concessions on territorial issues with economic cooperation and Japanese investment especially in Far East area of Russia.
Putin said that both the Russian and the Japanese government agencies would work out new agreements in investment, tax and labor spheres.
But he dismissed the notion that he was only interested in getting economic benefits from Japan, saying that the most important thing for him is to sign a peace agreement "because that would create the conditions for long-term cooperation."
He said that he hoped cooperation between the two countries on the islands "will contribute to creating a favorable atmosphere for the continuation of negotiations on the conclusion of a peace treaty".
The two sides signed here a total of 80 documents, including 68 private sector deals. The total contribution from Japan in terms of loans and investment was reportedly valued at about 300 billion yen (2.5 billion U.S. dollars), according to local media..
Japanese companies, however, despite the pressure from government, are said to be concerned over the uncertainties of business environment in Russia amid the Japanese sanctions and some of the deals announced here are "less than what they seem," according to sources close to the matter.
Japan slapped sanctions on Russia along with its western allies following Russia's takeover of Crimea.