LOS CABOS, Mexico--Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on June 18 to re-energize working-level negotiations over the disputed Northern Territories, even throwing in a judo term for good measure.
Noda and Putin met on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit meeting being held in Mexico. It was the Japanese prime minister's first meeting with Putin since he returned to the Russian presidency in May.
Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba will visit Russia in July for negotiations.
Following an earlier reference by Putin, Noda used a judo term to indicate his desire to resume the stalled negotiations over the islands off the coast of Hokkaido, which were seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II and claimed by Tokyo.
"I want to give the instruction of 'hajime' at this meeting in order to start working-level negotiations," Noda said.
A black belt in judo, Putin used the term employed by referees to start and resume judo matches in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun and other media organizations in March in which he indicated a willingness to resume territorial negotiations. That comment had led to greater expectations among Japanese officials that talks could be resumed.
In response to Noda's comment, Putin said, "The actual decisions should be left at the diplomatic level for those matters related to territorial issues that have to be resolved."
Along with announcing that Genba would be dispatched to Russia this summer, Noda also indicated his intention to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting scheduled for early September in Vladivostok in the Russian Far East.
The two leaders also confirmed the need to strengthen the economic relationship between Japan and Russia.
After the meeting, Noda told reporters, "Specific (negotiations) will begin from now."
(This article was written by Ai Matsumura and Kazuhiro Sekine.)
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