No breakthrough between Putin and Koizumi Junichiro Koizumi was Prime Minister of Japan for about five and a half years from April 2001, a year after Vladimir Putin became President of Russia. During his tenure Koizumi was unable to make any significant breakthroughs with regard to Japan’s longstanding dispute with Russia over the Northern Territories (called Southern Kuriles by the Russians). Koizumi was requesting Russia to return the four disputed islands (Habomai group of islets, Shikotan, Kunashiri and Etorofu islands) to Japan, but Putin has only offered to hand over the two smaller ones (Habomai and Shikotan). The gap between the two leaders’ positions on the Northern Territories issue was too large for compromise. Why did this gap become so wide? Many reasons may be pointed out, but one of the most significant is that the leaders of these two countries lack comprehensive, long-term strategies and policies toward each other.