Hiroshige Seko Japan trade minister says deals with Russia to be ‘win-win’

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is betting his close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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"The Northern Territories are an inherent part of Japan's territory," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament on Friday play

"The Northern Territories are an inherent part of Japan's territory," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament on Friday

(AFP/File)
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Japan’s Trade Minister on Wednesday dismissed concerns that boosting economic ties with Russia as part of a push for progress on a decades-old territorial row would mainly benefit Moscow.

Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko, however, added that any business deals would be “win-win’’ for both.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is betting his close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The lure of Japanese investment in fields from medical technology to energy could ease progress in the dispute over four islands seized by Russia at the end of World War Two.

Seko said it would be discussed when the leaders meet in Japan in December.

Meanwhile, the feud over the islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuriles in Russia, has kept Tokyo and Moscow from signing a peace treaty formally ending their conflict.

“This is not a matter of Japan giving money to Russia. These are all projects that will provide business chances for Japanese firms.

“These projects will cultivate new growth areas for Japanese firms and in the sense they will also be a plus for Russia, they will be win-win,’’ Seko, now in charge of economic cooperation with Russia, told newsmen.

The minister also suggested progress in joint economic projects might hinge on progress toward resolving the territorial row.

“These projects will take several years. We are not paying money on Dec. 15.

“It would be up to the prime minister but there will be opportunities to make decisions along the way while watching progress in the talks on a peace treaty,’’ he said.

Seko declined to give any details of progress on 30 priority projects that the two sides are discussing ahead of the Dec. 15 meeting between Abe and Putin in the former’s home constituency in Yamaguchi, southwestern Japan.

However, he said, private firms were showing positive interest.

Japanese firms have long complained about the business environment in Russia.

According to surveys by Japanese business lobby Keidanren, among their concerns are an opaque and changeable legal system, burdensome bureaucracy and corruption.

Report says Japanese companies are also wary of running foul of Western sanctions imposed on Russia after it annexed Crimea in 2014. 

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