Abe drops Putin visit to Japan this year

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TOKYO: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has dropped plans to host Russian President Vladimir Putin in Japan this year because of friction after Tokyo imposed sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis, reports said on Tuesday.

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The two countries had agreed on the Russian leader’s visit “this autumn” but Washington had asked Tokyo to postpone it, Kyodo News reported, quoting Japanese government sources.

Tokyo also sees it as important to keep in step with the West as it has joined the US and Europe in putting pressure on Russia with sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, Kyodo said.

Japan is now seeking to arrange for Putin to visit next spring or later, depending on the state of ties between Russia and the United States, which are bitterly at odds over the crisis, it added.

The Sankei Shimbun also said his visit to Japan was likely to be delayed until early next year at the earliest.

Abe and Putin, however, still hope to hold talks during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum’s summit in Beijing in November.

“Our goal has shifted from Mr. Putin’s visit to Japan to holding a summit on the occasion of the APEC forum,” one of the sources said, according to Kyodo.

On Sunday, Abe and Putin held telephone talks and reportedly expressed interest in holding a summit.

Abe has held multiple summits with Putin since coming to office in late 2012, pushing to expand economic ties and resolve a dispute over the ownership of islands that were seized by Soviet troops in the closing days of World War II.

But the crisis in Ukraine has thrown a spanner in the works, and Tokyo has fallen in with its allies in Europe and North America, heaping sanctions and pressure on Moscow.

Tokyo is expected to announce additional sanctions against Russia soon in a bid to show it is in step with the United States and Europe over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, Kyodo said. AFP

 

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