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LEAD: Hatoyama hopes for summit with Russian leader on disputed islands.

TOKYO, Nov. 18 Kyodo


Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on Wednesday expressed his hope of having a summit with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev somewhere on the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, indicating his eagerness to make progress on the territorial dispute.

''I want to have summit talks with President Medvedev somewhere on the four northern islands,'' Hatoyama was quoted by Hokkaido Gov. Harumi Takahashi as telling a group of people who want the islands returned to Japanese rule and met the premier with Takahashi.

The prime minister did not go in detail about when such a meeting could take place, Takahashi told reporters after the meeting.

The islands of Kunashiri, Etorofu and Shikotan as well as the Habomai islet group -- known in Japan as the Northern Territories and in Russia as the Southern Kurils -- were seized by the Soviets in the closing days of World War II.

Moscow has said it will hand over two of the four islands after concluding a peace treaty, while Japan insists that all four islands should be returned.

During the meeting with Takahashi and others in Tokyo, Hatoyama said he told the Russian leader in Singapore that he would not accept the idea of settling the dispute by the return of the two smaller islands -- Shikotan and the Habomai islets -- and that he wants to hear an additional proposal from Russia.

The two leaders met in the city state on the fringes of the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on Sunday.

Later on Wednesday, Hatoyama clarified his overtures, telling reporters, ''I made the remark in the belief that if the president and the prime minister could discuss this at such a venue, this problem would take a big leap toward its resolution.''

''But there is no plan to do so now, nor did I say this to President Medvedev,'' he said. ''If you consider the reality, it may be quite difficult for the top leaders to have discussions (there) with each other.''

During Wednesday's meeting, Hatoyama also said that in the bilateral summit, Medvedev said Russia would not be adamant about the Yalta agreement and the Potsdam Declaration, the former of which stipulated that the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan on the condition that the Kuril Islands, known in Japan as the Chishima Islands, be handed over to it.

Foreign Ministry Press Secretary Kazuo Kodama also denied there is any plan to hold such a summit there, citing legal constraints placed on Japanese visitors to the islands as one example of the impediments.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Nov 23, 2009
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