Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday that Russia and Japan should place priority on economic cooperation even before finding a solution to their long-standing territorial dispute that has prevented the two countries from signing a post-World War II peace treaty.
"It would be detrimental to insist on avoiding cooperation before a resolution (of the issue)," Medvedev said in response to a question by Kyodo News President Masaki Fukuyama, who met with the Russian prime minister with other leaders of news agencies in the Asia-Pacific region.
Medvedev's remarks followed the resumption last month of talks over Russian-held islands off Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido. The deputy-foreign-minister level talks were agreed upon in April between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
With the remarks, Medvedev reiterated Russia's basic stance on the territorial issue that expansion of economic ties is the basis for reaching a solution on the issue.
Medvedev hailed the two countries' joint development of natural gas off Sakhalin, saying the project has led to the first natural gas production in Russia. He hoped for further expansion of bilateral cooperation in energy fields.
The prime minister, while noting increases in bilateral trade, stressed that the two countries could cooperate more closely in economic areas.
Russia and Japan "should avoid politicization of issues of economic cooperation and expand cultural and human exchanges," Medvedev said, contending that the two countries would then be able to find a path to solving political issues.
The news agency delegates visited Russia for a general assembly meeting of the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies, or OANA, which was formed in 1961 under an initiative of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to secure direct and free exchange of news between news agencies in the Asia-Pacific region.