TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning to attend the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics, reports said Friday, despite calls for a boycott over Russia’s anti-gay laws.
He is also expected to hold a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Games, Kyodo News and the Asahi Shimbun daily said.
Abe’s attendance would put him out of step with ally the United States and with Germany, whose leaders are unlikely to be at the February 7 event amid international unease at what is seen as illiberal Russian legislation.
Russia’s adoption in June of a law prohibiting the dissemination of information about homosexuality to minors has sparked protests from human rights groups and calls for a boycott of the country’s first post-Soviet Olympic Games.
In contrast with many developed countries, gay rights does not register much as an issue on the Japanese public’s radar, although society at large is reasonably tolerant.
Abe, whose year in office has been marked by some fairly fast-paced diplomacy, would like to resolve a decades-old dispute over contested islands, which has prevented Japan and Russia from signing a peace treaty formally ending World War II.
The islands, which Japan claims as the Northern Territories, but Russia administers as the Southern Kurils, were seized by Soviet troops as World War II thundered to a close.
The talks between Abe and Putin would be a further sign of an improving relationship between their countries since Abe took office in December 2012.
Top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters a visit was under consideration, although nothing had been finalized. AFP