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Abe seeks to resolve Japan-Russia WWII row

January 4, 2016

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed it was "abnormal" that a territorial peace deal hasn't been signed 70 years after World War II. Abe has called for a summit meeting with Putin.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is also the ruling Liberal Democratic Party leader, gestures during a news conference.
Image: Reuters/I. Kato

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on Monday for a summit meeting with Russia over a dispute concerning what Japan calls its "Northern Territories."

"Without a summit meeting this Northern Territories problem cannot be resolved," Abe said during his first news conference of the year in Tokyo.

The two countries never signed a peace deal after World War II because of a territorial dispute over the islands north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido. The four islands in question are the Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group. Soviet troops seized the islands at the end of the war in 1945, with previous speculation suggesting that the two countries would split control.

When asked about Putin, Abe replied, "We both recognize that 70 years after the war's end to not have concluded a peace treaty is abnormal."

A bid to further ties

Abe has sought to improve relations with Russia since taking office in late 2012, but the conflict in Ukraine and other issues have complicated the matter. Several plans by Putin to visit Japan have been put on hold due to the conflict in Ukraine and other western concerns.

However, Japan saw now as a good time to seek negotiations with Russia after Moscow expressed a desire to boost its foreign investment in its Far East region, local media reported.

In his address, Abe also expressed that relations with China and South Korea were "normalizing," and that he hoped matters would further improve with South Korea after a summit in Seoul.

smm, mg/se (AFP, AP)