The Russian Cabinet on Thursday considered a program to encourage the development of an economically struggling chain of Pacific islands claimed by Japan.
Vladimir Yakovlev, the minister for regional development who presented the plan at the Cabinet meeting, said the bad economic situation on the Kuril Islands was jeopardizing Russia's security. The existing federal program intended to develop the Kurils, which Japan calls the Northern Territories, has failed to bring tangible results. "The economic and social situation on the islands is depressing," Yakovlev said, according to Russian news reports. The new federal program to support the islands plans for spending 15.6 billion rubles (US$544 million, Ђ456 million) in 2006-2015.
Economic Development Minister German Gref said the program should make the region capable of financing its needs, ending its dependence on federal subsidies.
Yakovlev said the program would focus on fisheries, energy, transport and the social sphere.
The dispute over the islands, which were seized by Soviet troops toward the end of the war, has prevented Russia and Japan from signing a World War II peace treaty.
President Vladimir Putin has planned to make an official visit to Tokyo in November amid continuing demands from Japan for Russia to cede four of the islands, just off the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. A.M.