Abe eager to accelerate territorial talks with Putin

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed eagerness Friday to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of international meetings this year to make progress on a long-standing territorial dispute.

"If I have the time I would like to hold a summit and move forward" on the territorial issue, Abe said in a television program, adding that such opportunities may arise when the two leaders attend meetings of the Group of Eight in June, the Group of 20 in September and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in October.

His comments came after Abe agreed with Putin in Moscow last month to revive talks on the territorial row that has prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty since the end of World War II.

Under the deal, the two leaders will press officials to accelerate negotiations over the group of four islands off northern Japan seized by the Soviet Union in 1945.

In the TV program, Abe also touched on the heightened tension with China over the sovereignty of the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

The Japanese government purchased three of the five main islands in the group from their private Japanese owner last September, angering China which claims the islets and calls them Diaoyu.

"Japan and China are in an inseparable relationship," Abe said. "I would like China to also recognize that it is wrong to close all dialogue even if a problem exists."

Ahead of the upper house election in July, Abe stressed that his Liberal Democratic Party will push for revision of the Constitution, particularly Article 96 stating amendments require a vote of two-thirds or more of the members in each house of parliament and approval in a national referendum, saying it sets "too high a bar."