TOKYO, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to establish a new ministerial post to oversee Japan's economic cooperation with Russia, Japanese government's top spokesman said Thursday.
Hiroshige Seko, minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, is to double as the new Russia economy cooperation minister, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at a press conference.
The appointment of the new minister is "necessary to advance Japan's economic policies (with regard to Russia)," said Suga.
Seko served as deputy chief cabinet secretary before he was appointed as economic minister last month following Abe's cabinet reshuffle.
"During his time as deputy chief Cabinet secretary, Seko held meetings on Russian diplomacy at the prime minister's office and coordinated the cooperation plan," said Suga.
The move came before Abe's planned visit to Russia from Friday where he is slated to hold talks with President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in the port city of Vladivostok.
Abe is reportedly to discuss with Putin an eight-point economic cooperation proposal, in the hope that it would create an atmosphere for realizing Putin's visit to Japan by the end of this year and advance talks with Kremlin on a territorial dispute involving four Pacific islands.
Russia and Japan have not signed any peace treaty since WWII mainly due to their long-held disputes over four Pacific islands called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia.
Abe put forward the eight-point economic cooperation proposal at his previous meeting with Putin at Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi in May. The two leaders agreed to shore up bilateral ties but no document was signed.
The relationship between Tokyo and Moscow deteriorated after Japan slapped sanctions against Russia following the Ukraine Crisis, along with steps taken by the U.S. and the European Union.
Abe's visit to Russia in May was widely seen as an effort to mend frayed ties and seek rapprochement with Moscow.