MOSCOW - Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said after meeting her Russian counterpart Saturday that signing a treaty to formally end World War II hostilities would be key to strengthening ties in the 21st century.
Kawaguchi said she and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov agreed on a six-point plan for developing relations. The top points she named were strengthening political dialogue and increasing efforts to conclude a peace treaty.
"The lack of a peace treaty between two internationally authoritative countries - which are also neighbors - is not a normal state of affairs," Kawaguchi said at a news conference.
She stressed that a peace treaty would have to settle the territorial dispute over the four southernmost islands in the Kuril chain, which were seized by the Soviet Union during the closing days of World War II. Japan claims the islands and refers to them as the Northern Territories.
"The most serious problem between the two countries is that there is no established border," Kawaguchi said. "We need to solve that problem."
Referring to the territorial dispute, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said on Friday that Tokyo should abandon "unnecessary and counterproductive ideological verbal battles and emotional rhetoric" and help foster a "favorable climate for dialogue."
Kawaguchi said the dates for a visit by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, planned for January, would likely be announced after her meeting Monday with President Vladimir Putin.
Kawaguchi said that during the summit, Putin and Koizumi would approve the six-point plan, which she said also included pledges to cooperate in the international arena and in the economic, law enforcement and cultural spheres.
"This document will become a kind of route map for the movement of our countries to the construction of a true strategic partnership," Ivanov said, according to the Interfax news agency.
On the eve of her visit, Kawaguchi told Interfax that both sides were convinced it was necessary to open a new phase of cooperation.
At the start of Saturday's talks, Ivanov agreed. "We fully agree with your remarks on the need to continue efforts aimed at boosting relations between Russia and Japan," Ivanov said, according to Interfax.
Kawaguchi said she and Ivanov also discussed Iraq, North Korea and other international issues, as well as ways to boost economic ties. During her four-day visit, the Japanese minister was to attend a session of a bilateral government commission for trade and economic ties.
Russian-Japanese trade amounted to US$4.6 billion last year, an 11 percent drop from 2000.
Later Saturday, Kawaguchi visited Moscow's Donskoi Monastery, where prisoners executed under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin are buried, the Interfax news agency reported. Two Japanese prisoners from World War II were among those buried there, Interfax said.