Japan
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Kremlin official says Japan needs time to consider Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s unexpected peace treaty proposal

Russia thinks Japan needs time to form a position on President Vladimir Putin’s unexpected peace treaty proposal last week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Sunday.

Such an initiative brings complicated matters to Japan both on foreign and domestic policy fronts, Peskov said on state television. It is quite understandable and normal to take some time before coming to a decision, he said.

At an economic conference attended by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday in the Russian Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, Putin proposed that Tokyo and Moscow sign a peace treaty to formally end the two countries’ wartime hostilities — without any preconditions — by the end of this year.

The proposal stoked controversy in Tokyo, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga saying the same day that Japan remains committed to resolving a long-standing territorial dispute with Moscow before signing a peace treaty.

Peskov said Abe himself did not respond to the proposal.

Putin’s proposal was intended to help an atmosphere of mutual trust spread between the two countries, the presidential spokesman said.

The two countries are strategically on the same path, though there are certain nuances in their approaches, Peskov said. Negotiations will continue, he said.

The territorial dispute over three northwestern Pacific islands, plus a group of small islands in the same region, held by Russia but claimed by Japan prevents the two sides from concluding a peace treaty to formally end their World War II hostilities. The islands — Shikotan, Etorofu, Kunashiri and the Habomai group — were seized from Japan by Soviet troops in the closing days of the war.

On a television program aired Sunday, Abe called for calm discussions after Putin’s unexpected remarks.

“I have reiterated that Japan maintains the basic stance of resolving the territory issue first and then concluding a peace treaty,” Abe said on public broadcaster NHK. “We shouldn’t get confused by only some comments,” Abe stressed.

Abe was joined on the debate-style program by former defense chief Shigeru Ishiba, his rival in the upcoming Liberal Democratic Party presidential race.

But Ishiba called for caution against optimism over the course of negotiations on the Northern Territories issue, saying, “Putin’s territorial fixation is extraordinarily strong.”

On the consumption tax issue, Abe said the tax rate should basically be raised from 8 percent to 10 percent in October 2019 as scheduled unless something happens with a magnitude comparable to that of the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers a decade ago.

Meanwhile, Ishiba underscored the importance of creating an environment that enables the tax hike, particularly calling for a sufficient increase in personal income.

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