“I would like to promote the joint work to find a mutually acceptable solution as well as move forward the talks step by step. I will firmly seek to solve the territorial dispute and sign the peace treaty. First of all, it is important to boost friendly and trust-based relations between the peoples of Japan and Russia so that the four islands will become the islands of friendship”, Abe said at the annual government-organized meeting devoted to the Northern Territories Day.
The Russian-Japanese relations have long been complicated by the fact that the two nations never signed a permanent peace treaty after the end of World War II. The deal was not reached because of a disagreement over a group of four islands — Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai — that are claimed by both countries. They are collectively referred to as the Southern Kurils by Russia and the Northern Territories by Japan.
Since Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Japan in December 2016, the relations between the two nations have been improving, with the two sides agreeing to develop joint projects on the disputed islands.