Japan, Russia hold talks on isles, energy cooperation

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks Monday with a long-standing bilateral territorial dispute and economic and energy cooperation likely to be the main topics.

Abe and Putin, who met in April in Moscow, are expected to agree to handle the issue of the sovereignty of four Russian-held islands that Japan claims within the framework of subcabinet-level dialogue and accelerate arrangements to hold the first round, a Japanese official said.

Abe said Sunday he and the Russian president will speed up negotiations toward signing a post-World War II peace treaty and hold discussions on various occasions.

Meeting on the sidelines of a summit of the Group of Eight nations in Northern Ireland, Abe and Putin are also likely to agree to ensure bilateral cooperation in the sectors of security, energy procurement and the economy in a steady manner, according to the official.

The Japanese and Russian leaders are also expected to discuss North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them and compare notes over the continued conflict in Syria.

In April, Abe and Putin agree to resume stalled negotiations over the sovereignty of Etorofu, Kunashiri and the Shikotan islands as well as the Habomai islet group and hold a subcabinet level meeting.

Japan has asked Russia to first confirm that the four islands, which the Soviet Union seized at the end of the war, belong to Japan, saying it can be flexible about when and how the islands are actually returned.

But Russia has been reluctant to make concessions beyond a 1956 joint declaration which says Moscow can return only two of the islands after concluding a peace treaty.

As a result of the dispute, the two countries have yet to sign a peace treaty even nearly 70 years after the end of the war.