TOKYO: Suga took office two weeks ago, replacing Shinzo Abe who stepped down due to poor health. Abe, during his nearly eight years in office, put a great deal of time and effort into improving ties with Russia in hopes of settling the territorial dispute, but with little progress.
The two countries both claim a group of islands seized by the former Soviet Union in the final days of the war, preventing them from signing a peace treaty. The islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Kurils in Russia, are off the northern coast of Japan’s Hokkaido. “I told (Putin) that I hope to develop Japan-Russia relations holistically, including the signing of a peace treaty. I said we should not leave the territorial problem to the next generations and put an end to it ourselves,” Suga told reporters after the telephone talks. “I will firmly tackle the problem with President Putin.” Suga said he is confident he and Putin can develop a positive relationship in which they can frankly exchange views.