Japan’s prime minister heads to Russia for talks with Putin

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TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe headed to Russia on Thursday for talks with President Vladimir Putin in hopes of making progress on joint economic projects on disputed islands as a step toward resolving a decades-old territorial row.
Abe said he hoped to talk “heart-to-heart” with Putin on Saturday to achieve progress on the island issue and eventually sign a peace treaty. Abe also plans to reaffirm Russia’s cooperation in efforts to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons.
Abe has been pushing for a way forward in the territorial dispute that centers on four southern Kuril islands, which Japan calls the Northern Territories.
The Soviet Union took the islands in the closing days of World War II, expelling 17,000 Japanese to nearby Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands.
The row has kept the two countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their World War II hostilities.
Japan is seeking to implement joint business projects on the Kuril Islands as a way to gain momentum to resolve the territorial row. Russia wants to bring in more investment to its wider Far East.