Japan's Shinzo Abe says will push for peace treaty with Russia

Japanese PM hopes for deal with Vladimir Putin to end 70-year-old dispute over four islands at an upcoming summit.

    Putin and Abe have held several meetings in a bid to solve the dispute over the islands [File: Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]
    Putin and Abe have held several meetings in a bid to solve the dispute over the islands [File: Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to push forward towards a peace treaty with Russia to formally end a decades-long territorial dispute that began during World War II over a group of islands. 

    Abe, who has signalled he is eager to clinch a deal, will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin later this month in their 25th summit for discussions aimed at ending the disagreement over four windswept islands seized by Soviet troops in the final days of the war.

    "I'll visit Russia later this month and intend to push forward with discussions towards a peace treaty," he told a news conference in the western city of Ise on Friday. 

    There had been "absolutely no progress" on the issue for more than 70 years, he said.

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    Abe said that, while there were no guarantees of an agreement, the two nations had been cooperating over issues concerning the islands, as well as economically, over the past two years "as never before".

    Decades-old dispute

    The dispute between Russia and Japan started more than seven decades ago, with the Soviet Union occupying the strategically located Kuril chain of islands during the last days of World War II in 1945.

    Both nations have laid claim over the group of four islands - known as the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan - thereby preventing them from signing a peace accord.

    Putin caught Abe off guard in September when, on stage with the Japanese leader at a conference in Vladivostok, he suggested signing a peace treaty by the year-end "without any pre-conditions".

    Abe later rejected the proposal, repeating Japan's stance that the question of sovereignty must be settled first.

    Putin proposes peace with Japan by year's end (2:30)

    He told reporters after the two met again in Singapore in November they had agreed to speed up negotiations based on a 1956 joint statement in which Moscow agreed to transfer the two smaller islands to Japan after a peace treaty was concluded.

    "We both do not want this to drag out into another generation," Abe said on Friday.

    Putin and Abe have held several meetings in the past in a bid to solve the dispute over the islands.

    Last year, Japan decided it would expand its missile capabilities in the strategic region, a move that worried Russia.

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    SOURCE: Reuters news agency