Source: China State Council Information Office
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may possibly cancel a planned trip in May to Moscow amid concerns over the global COVID-19 pandemic, government sources said on Thursday.
The Japanese leader was scheduled to attend a ceremony on May 9 marking the 75th anniversary of Russia defeating Germany in World War II.
Abe was also hoping the opportunity would provide a chance to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on a decades-old territorial dispute, the progress of which thus far has largely resulted in a stalemate over the issue.
In talks held in February between Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, it was agreed that Lavrov would visit Japan at an early juncture to pave the way for Abe’s trip.
The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has scuppered Lavrov’s planned visit here and may lead to further delays in talks being held between Abe and Putin.
Kyodo News, citing anonymous government officials, said that owing to the likelihood of progress being made on the territorial dispute being low, Abe is more likely to cancel his trip.
Tokyo and Moscow have been at odds over the sovereignty of four Russian-held islands located off Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia.
The territorial spat has not only prevented the two countries from signing a post-WWII peace treaty but also hindered diplomatic and trade relations between the two countries.
The two sides have yet to make significant progress on inking a peace treaty, despite Abe’s hope to do so when he met Russian President Putin in June on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka last year, although little progress was made.
A potential meeting between the pair could have happened on the sidelines of an APEC conference in Chile in November 2019, but the meeting was cancelled, dealing a further blow to the progress of territorial-related talks.
Both parties, nevertheless, have provisionally agreed to furthering joint economic activities on the disputed islands.
Such activities span defense, search and rescue operations, medical care, industry promotion and energy development, in line with a previously proposed plan, which also covers aquaculture, tourism and waste reduction.
The multi-faceted cooperation plan, based around five pillars proposed by Abe in 2016, was purportedly to become an important foundation for future ties between Tokyo and Moscow and to help foster and bolster mutual trust.
Since the provisional agreement both sides have since reaffirmed their commitment to promote joint economic activities on the disputed islands.