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Russia, Japan confirm commitment to peace treaty

RIA Novosti

23/10/2007 18:32 (Recasts throughout, adds details, background)

TOKYO, October 23 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian and Japanese foreign ministers confirmed on Tuesday their commitment to finding a mutual solution for concluding a formal peace treaty.

Russia and Japan have disputed ownership of the southern Kuril Islands, in Russia's Far East, for over 60 years. Japan maintains that their seizure at the end of WWII was illegal, and the dispute has kept the two countries from signing a formal peace treaty.

Sergei Lavrov also said on Tuesday after talks with his Japanese counterpart Masahiko Komura that a solution on the problem of the Russia-Japan peace treaty should be acceptable to both nations.

"A solution on the Russia-Japan peace treaty should be mutually acceptable to both nations and their parliaments, suggesting joint nonstop effort and a readiness to make reciprocal moves," Lavrov said.

Lavrov and Komura said both countries want the issue settled, adding that talks would continue. The Japanese minister said dates for regular contacts had been coordinated.

Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Naryshkin will visit Japan November 5, and First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov and his Japanese counterpart Shiotaro Yati will take part in a regular round of strategic dialogue December 6.

Komura also said the tripartite union being formed by Japan, Australia and the United States is not targeted against any third country.

"These three countries have common interests and common value systems in the Pacific. A military union is out of the question," the Japanese minister said.

Komura said Japan's missile defense system is not aimed against Russia. "We do not expect an attack from Russia, and our missile defense system is not aimed against it," he said.

In the Treaty of San Francisco signed by Japan and the Allied Powers in 1951, which formally ended WWII, Japan renounced its rights to the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin. However, the four southern Kuril Islands were not specifically mentioned in the treaty, which was not signed by the Soviet Union.

Last year, Russia offered to return to Japan the Shikotan and Khabomai islands, with a combined area of just 276 square kilometers (172 square miles), or 6% of the disputed territory, on the condition that Tokyo renounced its claims to the two larger islands, Iturup and Kunashir, whose combined area totals 4,629 square kilometers (2,890 square miles).

Japan rejected the proposal, claiming its right to all four islands.

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