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Politics

Russia offers Japan joint-venture proposal for Kurils

Survey group to judge feasibility in upcoming visit to disputed islands

A dispute over the southernmost Kuril Islands has kept Japan and Russia from signing a postwar peace treaty.

YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, Russia -- The foreign ministry in Moscow has proposed a new special zone for joint economic activity with Japan on islands administered by Russia, their Russian governor told The Nikkei on Monday.

The islands, known as the southern Kurils in Russia and claimed by Japan as the Northern Territories, have been the subject of a postwar territorial dispute between the two nations.

The proposed zone would be based on "common international rules" rather than Russian law, said Oleg Kozhemyako, the governor of Sakhalin Oblast, which administers the Kuril Islands. He raised the prospect of a public corporation in which the Russian and Japanese governments would participate on an equal footing.

"We will need an organization to administer land zoning and infrastructure provision," Kozhemyako said. No proposal has been received from the Japanese side regarding a framework for activities, the governor said.

For five days starting Tuesday, a survey group of around 70 people from Japan's public and private sectors will examine potential sites on the island for joint operations in fishing, aquafarming, tourism and other businesses. Led by Eiichi Hasegawa, a special adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the delegation will exchange views with Sakhalin officials and consider whether cooperation is feasible.

If all goes well with the survey group, Kozhemyako said, the two countries could begin talks on a legal framework for cooperation as soon as this summer.

Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in December to launch talks on joint economic cooperation, but progress has been slow. Russia apparently wants to accelerate the process by showing some flexibility toward Japanese demands.

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