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Hashimoto proposed drawing border north of islands

TOKYO, April 20 Kyodo

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto proposed in weekend talks with Russian President Boris Yeltsin that the demarcation line between Russia and Japan be set north of a group of disputed islands off Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido, several government sources said Monday.

The proposed demarcation line would essentially confirm Japan's sovereignty over the disputed islands, the sources said.

Hashimoto also proposed that the two countries set a transitional period until the transfer of the islands to Japan during which Japan would acknowledge Russia's provisional administrative authority over them, according to the sources.

Japan and Russia should discuss details of the transfer and resolve system-related problems during the transition period, Hashimoto reportedly proposed.

Once the borderline proposal is on the agenda of peace treaty negotiations between the two countries, the Japanese government plans to become involved in joint economic activities Russia proposed for the islands, the sources said.

Earlier the day, Hashimoto himself basically admitted that his new proposal revolved around the demarcation line.

Hashimoto also said he will consider Yeltsin's proposed joint economic program on the islands in conjunction with the peace treaty negotiations.

Tokyo and Moscow have yet to conclude a peace treaty because of a postwar dispute over ownership of the Russian-held islands -- Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan islands and the Habomai group of islets. Soviet troops seized the islands at the end of World War II.

Yeltsin said Sunday after an informal summit with Hashimoto at the seaside resort of Kawana, some 130 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, that the Japanese prime minister had made ''an additional and interesting proposal'' but did not elaborate.

Yeltsin also said, ''I have to give it a lot of consideration but I am optimistic.''
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Apr 27, 1998
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