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Putin Promises Japan Oil, but not Islands

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, on a three-day visit to Japan, met for more than two hours with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The two leaders are putting the emphasis on economic relations, while avoiding in-depth discussion of a 60-year-old territorial dispute.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi signed 12 documents Monday on matters ranging from an anti-terrorism plan to Tokyo's help in dismantling aging Russian nuclear submarines. But Japan and Russia were not able to agree on a statement concerning a territorial dispute.

Mr. Koizumi, after his meeting with the Russian leader, told reporters a wide gap remains between the two countries on the matter.

There had been little expectation that during Mr. Putin's first visit to Japan in five years that any progress would be made concerning the Russian-held Kuril islands. Tokyo calls the islands, which are closer to Japan than Russia, the Northern Territories.

Mr. Putin calls his talks with the Japanese leader amicable, but says there are delicate matters, meaning the territorial dispute, that need to be discussed more thoroughly.

Tokyo insists that for a peace treaty to be signed to formally end World War II, Moscow must give up all the islands, which the Soviet Army seized just after Japan surrendered in 1945. Russia says it is willing to return two islands.

Speaking Monday at an economic cooperation forum Mr. Putin made no mention of the dispute. But he said strained relations could be improved by increasing business ties. Two-way trade currently amounts to a relatively paltry 10 billion dollars.

Speaking to Japanese and Russian business executives, Mr. Putin says Russia will expand a pipeline now under construction to the Pacific Coast, and Japan would eventually receive some of its Siberian crude oil.

Tokyo has feared that China would benefit from the pipeline, at Japan's expense. The first stage of the line is to terminate near China in 2008, hundreds of kilometers from the Pacific coast.

While the Russian president received a cordial welcome from Japanese businessmen, others had less friendly words for him.

Convoys of loudspeaker trucks, driven by ultra-nationalists, parade near the Russian Embassy and try to run police barricades around the hotel where Mr. Putin is staying. The rightists are demanding Moscow return the disputed islands.

Some of the more than seven thousand police on duty have jostled with the demonstrators, and Japanese media report at least two arrests.

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