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Nobutaka Machimura's visit to Russia last week has given rise to a new batch of rumors about the fate of the Kurile Islands
Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura's visit to Moscow last week has given rise to a new batch of rumors about the fate of the Kurile Islands: both sides are said to be ready for a certain bargaining to solve the most sensitive problem in Russian-Japanese relations, but the outline for this settlement remains obscure, Novye Izvestia reports. Lack of concrete information about the Russian-Japanese agreement, besides vague diplomatic statements made by both foreign ministries, proves that the parties still speak different languages. Russia, for example, proposes to solve the Kurile problem under the joint Japanese-Soviet declaration of 1956, which envisages only two islands, Shikotan and Habomai, being returned to Japan. However, Japan prefers to rely on the Tokyo declaration of 1993 signed by President Boris Yeltsin, where the Japanese party believes, Moscow recognizes Tokyo's sovereignty over all the four Kurile Islands. As talks are stalled, the timeframe for Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Japan remains unclear. This is a bad omen, analysts of both countries believe. Some experts in Moscow say that the "3 plus 1" compromise discussed in the lobbies of the Japanese parliament, which outline the return of the Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai islands, while preserving Russia's ownership over the largest and northernmost island of Iturup, is theoretically possible, but only if Iturup remains permanently in Moscow's hands and Japan makes a huge investment in the Russian economy. Russia will then support Japan's bid to join the UN Security Council as a permanent member. Many Japanese analysts believe that the return of the islands is politically and economically beneficial for Russia, because it supports a sizeable investment by Japan in the Russian economy
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