Russian president Vladimir Putin has said Russia is planning to build a bridge between Russia and Japan in a bid to improve relations between the two countries, which never signed a peace treaty after the Second World War.
According to the TASS news agency, Putin told the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok: "We are planning tobuild a bridge on Sakhalin that would connect it to Hokkaido."
Sakhalin is a large island which the Soviet Union seized in battle from the Japanese in 1945.
Putin added that better relations between the two countries "could lead to significant changes in infrastructure, energy and high technology."
Relations between Japan and Russia are hampered by a dispute over ownership of the Kuril Islands, which the Soviet Union also seized after declaring war on Japan in August 1945. According to Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, who was also speaking at the conference, work on joint infrastructure will create "a completely different context for the Kurils".
He added that a Sakhalin-Hokkaido bridge across the 42km La Pérouse Strait, could be built in the "foreseeable future".
Earlier in the week, Putin and South Korean president Moon Jae-in issued a joint statement advocating infrastructure development as the means to improve relations in the area, and announcing the formation of a $1bn fund for joint projects.
Among the possible projects, he mentioned port improvements in Russia’s Far East and the extension of the Trans-Siberian Railroad to South Korea.
Putin also suggested joint construction projects as a way of solving the North Korean missile crisis. He said: "I would like to say that Russia is still willing to implement trilateral projects with the participation of North Korea. We could deliver Russian pipeline gas to Korea and integrate the power lines and railway systems of Russia, the Republic of Korea and North Korea.
"The implementation of these initiatives will be not only economically beneficial, but will also help build up trust and stability on the Korean Peninsula."
Image: The La Pérouse staits, looking from Japan to Russia (Creative Commons)