Japan’s PM embarks for weeklong visit to Europe, Russia ahead of G7 summit

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe departed Sunday to visit European leaders on issues of global economic growth and sustainability ahead of a Group of Seven summit he will host in Mie Prefecture, central Japan, later this month, Xinhua reports.

The Japanese leader will begin his weeklong trip in Italy, and will also visit France, Belgium, Germany, and Britain.

Abe’s trip will conclude in Russia where he is slated to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on a long-held territorial dispute between Tokyo and Moscow, among other topics.

The Japanese prime minister said prior to his departure that he wants to hold candid discussions with the leaders of the G7 countries and lay the groundwork for substantial talks to be held in Japan later this month on global economic imperatives and sustainability, against an uncertain backdrop of slowing emerging economies, currency fluctuations and volatile stock markets.

“I hope to hold frank and candid discussions with the countries’ leaders. The biggest theme is how to deal with the world economy at present,” the Japanese prime minister was quoted as saying to local press at Tokyo’s Haneda airport, just prior to his departure.

Abe will also discuss with relevant leaders during his trip his plans to address issues of terrorism as well as the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe at the G7 summit. Abe has also indicated that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) nuclear and missile ambitions will also be tabled for discussions with the leaders during his trip and at the summit in Japan.

Before his return to Japan Abe will visit the southern Russian city of Sochi to hold an unofficial summit with Putin, with the two leaders expected to discuss the situation in Syria, Ukraine as well as issues pertaining to a territorial spat between Japan and Russia.

Abe hopes the stalled talks over the disputed Russian-held islands, known as the Northern Territories here and referred to as the Southern Kurils in Russia, will help the two countries advance dialogue towards signing a peace treaty that remains outstanding since the end of WWII.

Both sides, however, maintain that the islands in question are an inherent part of their respective country’s territory, and while Moscow has indicated that signing a peace treaty may not necessarily be predicated on resolving the territorial dispute, Tokyo has maintained the dispute is the central tenet of a potential peace treaty.

Following Abe’s visit to Sochi, Tokyo is hoping that Putin will make an official visit to Japan, initially scheduled for 2014, but long delayed owing to fresh tensions between Tokyo and Moscow arising over the Ukraine issue.

Once back in Japan the Japanese leader will, along with his ministers, be gearing up for the the Ise-Shima Summit, which will take place on May 26 and 27 in central Japan and will see the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States convene for the two-day G7 summit.