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PM Abe points to 'plus side' of Russian President Putin's peace deal proposal

In this Sept. 10, 2018 photo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands prior to their talks at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia. (Mikhail Metzel/TASS News Agency Pool Photo via AP)

TOKYO -- There is a "plus side" to Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent proposal for a zero-precondition peace treaty with Japan by the end of the year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told an internet streaming program on the night of Sept. 19.

"It is a fact that Putin has taken a big step toward concluding a treaty. There is a plus side," Abe stated.

No formal peace treaty has been concluded between Japan and Russia, or its predecessor the Soviet Union, since the end of World War II in 1945, when the Soviet military occupied islands off Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido. The islands, claimed as the Northern Territories by Japan, remain under Russian control, and it is the Abe government's policy that resolving the territorial dispute must come before a peace treaty.

Abe revealed on the internet program that Putin had told him the need to resolve the Northern Territories issue "would be written into a (Japan-Russia) peace accord, and that it would definitely get done."

On the program, Abe also stated that, if possible, he would "prefer not to" raise the consumption tax to 10 percent in October 2019 as scheduled. He added, however, that "it has to be raised so that we can start the move to tuition-free education."

(Japanese original by Shu Furukawa, Political News Department)

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