TOKYO, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday that he wants the country's newly installed Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi to step up peace treaty negotiations with Russia that have halted due to a long-standing territorial dispute.
After the unveiling of his reshuffled cabinet, Abe said at a press conference that the negotiations with Russia are "difficult" . However, it was his responsibility as prime minister to make "all-out" efforts toward resolving the problem.
"Minister Motegi's negotiation skills have earned him a reputation. In talks with Russia, I want Mr. Motegi to make full use of his negotiating skills," Abe said.
Abe rewarded Motegi with the post of foreign minister following his work as a top negotiator in trade talks with the United States.
"I have instructions to work toward a resolution that is acceptable to both countries. I want to hold a discussion with Foreign Minister (Sergey) Lavrov as soon as possible," Motegi said.
Japan and Russia have not signed a post-World War II peace treaty due to their rival claims to four Pacific islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia. Last year, Abe agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin to step up peace treaty negotiations but they have failed to yield major progress.
The Soviet army took the four islands during the final days of World War II. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the four islands were incorporated into Russia.
The two countries have held rounds of consultations on joint economic activities on the islands in five areas, namely, aquaculture, greenhouse, tourism, wind energy, and waste recycling. They view cooperation as a step toward a peace treaty, but so far no major breakthrough has been made.