TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga may talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone on Tuesday, it was learned Saturday.
The Japanese and Russian governments are working to arrange the phone talks by the two leaders for Tuesday, Japanese officials said. The Suga-Putin phone conversation will be the first since the prime minister took office on Sept. 16 to succeed Shinzo Abe.
The Japanese side hopes that Suga will build a relationship with Putin through the phone talks as Tokyo aims to advance bilateral negotiations to resolve the two countries’ long-standing territorial dispute over Russian-controlled four northwestern Pacific islands.
When he was in office as prime minister of Japan, Abe promoted diplomacy between the two nations based on his personal relationship of trust with Putin.
Putin, who sent a congratulatory message to Suga immediately after he was elected prime minister in the Diet, Japan’s parliament, apparently wants the new Japanese leader to follow Abe’s policy line. In the message, Putin said that he is ready to engage in constructive cooperation with Suga over bilateral and international issues.
The four islands, located off Hokkaido, northern Japan, were seized by the former Soviet Union from Japan at the end of World War II and have long been claimed by Japan, where they are known collectively as the Northern Territories. The territorial dispute has prevented Tokyo and Moscow from concluding a peace treaty to formally end their wartime hostilities.
In the planned phone talks, Suga is also expected to ask Putin for cooperation in the fight against the novel coronavirus.