(AFP) – President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Russia’s ties with Japan were moving forward as he met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the latest bid to make progress on a decades-old territorial dispute.
The meeting follows on from Putin’s first visit to Japan in 11 years last December, when the two leaders failed to resolve a disagreement over an island chain that has prevented their nations signing a peace treaty to formally end World War II.
But the Russian strongman insisted that the two sides are making important steps towards bolstering trade and political relations despite the dispute.
“At our previous meeting… during talks we agreed to activate our relations, our contacts, our joint work, and we can already draw some conclusions: there is movement forward,” Putin said at the start of talks with Abe in Moscow.
During Putin’s visit to Japan the countries signed a flurry of economic deals and agreed to begin negotiations towards possible economic cooperation on the disputed islands.
Abe said Thursday that Japan’s bilateral relations with Russia are “developing as they should”.
The Kremlin had said that Thursday’s talks would focus on “the state and prospects for development of Russo-Japanese cooperation in the political, trade and economic, and humanitarian spheres.”
The Soviet Union seized islands off Japan’s northern coast in 1945 in the closing days of the war.
Known as the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, they have been a thorn in relations ever since.