Japanese PM Shinzo Abe in Russia to strengthen relations with Putin
Tokyo-Moscow relations are hamstrung by a row dating back to the end of World War II when Soviet troops seized the southernmost islands in the Pacific Kuril chain, known as the Northern Territories in Japan. The tensions have prevented the countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending wartime hostilities, hindering trade and investment ties.
Abe's visit to Russia – his second this year – comes days after the Kremlin announced that Putin will travel to Japan in December, his first trip to the country since 2005.
Experts view recent rapprochement efforts as a positive development for Moscow's trade ties with stalwart US ally Tokyo but doubt that they will result in a resolution of their territorial dispute. Over the years, leaders from the two nations have tried to make headway on resolving the row but a solution has proved elusive and still looks some way off.
Both sides have confirmed that Friday's talks – taking place on the sidelines of an economic forum in the far eastern Russian city of Vladivostok – will touch upon the disputed islands.
Keen to solve Japan island row: Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow was keen to resolve a territorial dispute with Japan ahead of talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday, although a solution appears far off. "We are not talking about some kind of exchange or some kind of sale. We are talking about finding a solution where neither party will feel ... defeated or a loser," he said. Putin said signing a peace treaty with Japan was a "key issue" and that Moscow "would very much like to find a solution to this problem with our Japanese friends."