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TOKYO, June 15. /TASS/. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes for a progress in the issue with the South Kuril Islands with Russia and counts on talks with President Vladimir Putin, Kyodo news agency reported on Monday.
"We established personal relations built on trust with Putin by consistent meetings," Abe said. "The Northern territories [the South Kuril Islands] is originally Japan’s land. Seventy years has passed since the end of the Second World War, and this issue has still not been solved. This is really regrettable," he added. "Every year the population of the islands grows older. That is why it is important to solve this issue as soon as possible," the Japanese prime minister said.
On June 8, Shinzo Abe told the press conference after the G7 summit that he hopes that Russian President Vladimir Putin will pay a visit to Japan this year. Media later reported that the Russian leader will visit Tokyo in December. "No, as far as I know, there are no concrete dates on the agenda yet," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, commenting on media reports.
"The Russian side has certainly always supported progressive development of bilateral relations between Russia and Japan, maintaining dialogue at all levels, including high and highest levels. Of course, if the Japanese side demonstrates mutual readiness to maintain this dialogue, we will welcome it," he added. However, Japan does not demonstrate such readiness yet, the spokesman noted.
Earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that at a meeting in Moscow in mid-February the two countries’ diplomats had reiterated "the importance of joint work to prepare Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official visit to Tokyo." No exact dates of such visit were announced. The Kremlin confirmed back then that the president had received such an invitation from Tokyo.
Russia and Japan have no peace treaty signed after World War II. Settlement of the problem inherited by Russia’s diplomacy from the Soviet Union is hampered by the years-long dispute over the four islands of Russia’s Southern Kurils - Shikotan, Khabomai, Iturup and Kunashir, which Japan calls its northern territories.
After World War II, in September 1945, Japan signed the capitulation, and in February 1946, the Kuril Islands were declared territories of the Soviet Union.
During the Cold War, Moscow did not recognize the territorial problem, but in October 1993, when Russian president Boris Yeltsin was on an official visit in Japan, the existence of the problem was confirmed officially. However, the two countries have reached no compromise over the dispute yet.