The leaders of Japan and Russia have agreed to further accelerate negotiations on concluding a peace treaty that would include resolving the issue of four Russian-held islands claimed by Japan. But their latest summit ended without concrete progress and revealed a difference in their positions.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks in the Kremlin in Moscow on Tuesday.
The summit comes after talks between Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov last week on the peace treaty issue.
The two leaders welcomed the candid and serious discussions between the foreign ministers.
Abe and Putin agreed that the foreign ministers and special representatives of the two countries will hold talks on the sidelines of an international conference scheduled to be held in Germany next month.
They confirmed that they will instruct government officials to take steady and prompt steps in efforts to realize joint economic activities on the Russian-held islands claimed by Japan.
The leaders confirmed that former Japanese residents of the islands will fly to the islands to visit their family graves in the coming summer. Delegations of former residents have twice made such visits in the past.
The Japanese government maintains that the four islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory. It says the islands were illegally occupied after World War Two.
Abe said in a joint news conference after the summit that it is not easy to settle an issue that has been left unresolved for more than 70 years since the war.
Abe said he and Putin confirmed their resolve to take the lead in their governments' joint efforts to promote mutual trust between the peoples of Japan and Russia and to reach a solution both nations can accept.
Putin stressed that there is a long, bumpy road ahead that will require patience.
Abe wanted to agree with Putin that the two sides will start drafting a treaty. But no concrete progress was made on this matter during the summit.
In November of last year, Abe and Putin agreed to speed up treaty negotiations based on a 1956 joint declaration.
The declaration states that after a treaty is concluded, two of the four Russian-held islands would be handed over to Japan.