BEIJING, April 30 (Xinhuanet) -- Russia and Japan appear to have made some progress in achieving a thaw in relations strained primarily over a territorial dispute. In the meeting on Monday between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin, both countries pledged to speed up talks on arriving at a peace treaty for the first time since the end of World War II.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Moscow for the first leg of what is being called an "economic diplomacy" trip. The tour which began in Russia will also cover Turkey and the Middle East and is aimed at building business ties and possibly reaching a breakthrough in historically strained ties with Moscow.
It is the first official visit by a Japanese prime minister to Moscow in a decade.
Abe said one of the key issues on the agenda was the resumption of talks aimed at signing a long overdue peace treaty.
Tokyo and Moscow are involved in a long running dispute over four islands called the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan. Both countries claim the islands as their own.
The dispute has prevented the two countries from concluding a peace treaty to end World War Two.
Putin said Japan and Russia inherited the dispute from the past, not created it. And that there was a sincere willingness from both sides to resolve it.
An end to the dispute over the islands is not in sight, but reviving long-stalled talks is a first step to improving economic cooperation, which both sides say have failed to live up to its full potential.
The Russian position has frequently been that Japan should focus more on economic relations and not let the islands’ issue interfere with that.
In line with that, the Russian President said the country’s largest gas producer Gazprom was ready to offer help.
The islands’ issue and economic cooperation apart, regional problems were also discussed at the meeting. The two leaders condemned the DPRK for its refusal to give up its nuclear weapons program. They urged the DPRK to strictly comply with relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council.
Putin and Abe also called on Iran to make efforts to restore international trust concerning its controversial nuclear program.
This was the fourth face-to-face meeting between the two leaders. Shinzo Abe said he had extended an invitaion to Putin to visit Japan in 2014.