Russian President Vladimir Putin said the need to sign a post-WWII peace treaty with Japan and the nations’ row over disputed territories would be high atop the agenda of his possible trip to Japan next month.
"The dialogue started on Japan’s initiative. We agreed that if I do visit [Japan] this set of issues will be in the focus of our meeting [with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe]," Putin told reporters on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Lima.
"At our last meeting, we discussed what we could actually do on the [Kuril] islands. This includes resolving both economic and some humanitarian issues, but it is too soon to talk about this because there are no final agreements. We will maintain contacts on the foreign ministries’ level as well," he vowed.
"But the fact that we are discussing future contacts, including in Japan, is a sign of progress in our bilateral relations," Putin emphasized.
"As for the Kuril islands, they are a result of WWII, and we regard them as a sovereign Russian territory whose status is confirmed by international documents. But we are open for dialogue with our Japanese partners, we told them there were various options on the table," Putin said.
"Russia and Japan both sincerely want to sign this treaty and are looking for ways to do it … I only know that this endeavor should be supported at all costs," Putin told reporters in Lima on Sunday.
"I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves in terms of the main issue, which is the signing of a peace agreement. I think it is clear for Russia and Japan that the absence of such a deal is a relic of the past that is preventing us from moving forward," he said.
Japan and Russia never signed a permanent peace treaty after World War II due to Tokyo's claims to four Russian islands, the Southern Kurils: Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai.
The relations between the two states have recently been re-energized. In September, Abe took part in the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, during which he held three-hour talks with the Russian president. One of the outcomes of the meeting was the announcement of Putin's visit to Japan on December 15, which had been postponed from 2014.