Russia has rejected a Chinese offer to co-operate on their separate territorial rows with Japan, a report said yesterday, as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prepared to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi.
Beijing said it would support Moscow in its decades-old dispute over the sovereignty of islands to the north of Japan in exchange for backing in its row about the ownership of an East China Sea archipelago, the Mainichi Shimbun reported.
The offer had been made repeatedly since 2010, the paper said, citing diplomatic sources in Russia and Japan, but had always been brushed off.
The report came just ahead of President Xi Jinping and Abe's respective summits with Putin on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics' opening.
Xinhua reported that during their meeting yesterday, Xi and Putin exchanged views on bilateral cooperation in large projects and exchanges, and on major global and regional issues .
Xi arrived in Sochi yesterday. The three-day visit is his first foreign trip this year. This is Xi's third trip to Russia since he has been named president in last March.
Meanwhile, Abe is expected to discuss with Putin over the Russia-controlled Southern Kurils, which Japan claims as the Northern Territories.
Soviet troops annexed the islands, some just kilometres off the coast of Hokkaido island, in the final days of the second world war, evicting several hundred Japanese who lived there at the time. The issue has prevented the signing of a formal peace treaty between the two countries.
But an increasingly close working relationship between Abe and Putin, who have already held four summits since the Japanese prime minister took office in December 2012, has offered hope of progress, although Tokyo said it was unlikely to be settled in the near future.
"We are not overly optimistic about negotiations on the territorial issue," a foreign ministry official said. "So far, President Putin has been consistent [in asserting Russian ownership] … which is not at all acceptable for us."
Tensions between Beijing and Tokyo remain high, with coastguards from both sides engaged in stand-offs near the Diaoyu Islands, which Japan runs and calls the Senkakus.
The Japanese foreign ministry official said he was not aware of any co-operation between Moscow and Beijing.
"Russia takes a position that the issue should be resolved between Japan and China. I don't believe Russia agrees with China's position," he added.