Hokkaido, Sakhalin aim to start visa-free travel

The governor of Japan's northern prefecture of Hokkaido has agreed with the acting governor of Russia's Sakhalin Region to urge their governments to grant visa-free travel to their residents.

Harumi Takahashi met Valery Limarenko in Sakhalin's capital, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, on Saturday. The region includes four Russian-held islands claimed by Japan.

The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory. It says the islands were illegally occupied after World War Two.

Takahashi said she hopes deepening economic, cultural and medical exchanges between the two regions will help create an environment for resolving the territorial issue and signing a peace treaty.

In response, Limarenko called on Takahashi to work to realize visa-free travel between their residents to deepen exchanges. The idea was suggested by Russian President Vladimir Putin when he visited Japan in 2016.

Takahashi and Limarenko signed a memorandum stating that their regions will support exchanges between local companies engaged in seafood processing and farming over the next four years.

The memorandum also calls for the two regions to work to use Hokkaido's technology to develop transportation infrastructure in Sakhalin.