Japan, Russia Sign 5-Yr Exploration Agreement, Gain Ground on Kurils

Despite a decades-old territorial dispute revolving around the Southern Kurils, a string of islands annexed by Russia in 1945, Japan and Russia agreed to enter an oil and gas exploration joint venture in Siberia.

The deal between the two countries consists of a five-year $96 million exploration project in Siberia, reported The Moscow Times.

Irkutsk Oil and Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) will explore an area 621 miles north of Irkutsk, Russia, in an area that is 93 miles from the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline, JOGMEC said in a statement.

Irkutsk Oil will have a 51% interest in the joint venture.

Among its Russian ventures, JOGMEC provides loan guarantees to Sakhalin Oil and Gas Development Company for the Sakhalin-1 Project.

The agreement came on the heels of a plan to "expedite" the stalled out talks regarding the exploration and production fate of the Southern Kurils, which Japan believes it has the right to exploit for resources.

Japanese Prime Minister Jasuo Fukuda and Russian President Vladimir Putin met April 26 outside Moscow where they agreed that the Kurils dispute should be resolved.

The Southern Kurils, as they are called in Russia, were seized by Russia toward the end of World War II. Known as the Northern Territories in Japan, the islands have been a source of tension between the two countries, which has delayed the advent of a long-overdue peace treaty.

The Moscow Times reported that Putin told Fukuda, "We are continuing our dialog on a peace treaty and creating necessary conditions to advance in this direction."

Though a Russian representative told the press that the territorial dispute was not discussed in detail, a Japanese Foreign Ministry representative said that Putin and Fukuda agreed to "issue fresh directives" to facilitate the resolution of the dispute.

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