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N. territories cruise among economic proposals

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office after their meeting on Dec. 16, 2016.

The Yomiuri Shimbun A cruise around Hokkaido and the four northern territories, and the cultivation of scallops and sea urchins are among major projects planned as joint economic activities to be conducted with Russia in the four territories, it has been learned.

The main proposals that Japan will make during a Japan-Russia vice ministerial-level meeting to be held in Tokyo on Saturday also include a telemedical service for Russian residents on the islands, as well as hotel construction and harbor improvement.

The Japanese government has arranged for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to visit Russia in late April to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, and aims to reach an agreement on materializing the proposals at these bilateral talks.

During a summit meeting in December, Abe and Putin agreed to start negotiations on a “special system” to conduct joint economic activities based on a common recognition that the activities do not violate the positions taken by Japan and Russia.

Five fields were presented for the activities — tourism, medical services, fisheries, aquafarming and environment.

At Saturday’s meeting, officials including Deputy Foreign Minister Takeo Akiba and Special Adviser to the Prime Minister Eiichi Hasegawa will represent Japan, while Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and others will attend from Russia.

Both sides will present specific ideas for the activities.

In the field of tourism, Japan will propose a cruise ship tour for watching whales and dolphins in the area surrounding Hokkaido’s Shiretoko Peninsula, which is a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site, and the northern territories.

It will also propose constructing hotels aimed at accommodating former islanders as well as tourists.

In terms of medical services, Japanese doctors working in Hokkaido would advise on medical examinations of Russian patients on the islands via the internet.

In the fields of fisheries and aquafarming, Japan will propose the cultivation of scallops and sea urchins on the four islands as well as improvements to major harbors.

Japan is also considering suggesting joint field research to Russia, after details are agreed upon at Saturday’s meeting.

Japanese negotiators are eager to prioritize last-minute talks and field research on any feasible project based on existing bilateral agreements, as negotiations regarding the “special system” could face difficulties in the course of shaping each project.

The Japanese and Russian governments are scheduled Saturday to discuss ways to improve a system allowing former islanders to visit the northern territories that was agreed upon in December’s bilateral meeting.Speech

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