Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expects to hold a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the long-standing territorial dispute once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, according to the lawmaker from the Japan Innovation Party, Muneo Suzuki.
Suzuki met with Abe on Tuesday in the prime minister's residence, the Kyodo news agency reported. Following the meeting, Suzuki told reporters that Abe had expressed hope that "the pandemic would end soon so that [we] could think of the next top-level meeting."
The relations between Russia and Japan have long been complicated by the fact that the two countries have never signed a permanent peace treaty following World War II. The main issue holding the two countries back is their dispute over a group of four Kuril islands - Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, and Habomai.
In November 2018, Abe and Putin agreed to accelerate peace treaty talks on the basis of a Soviet-era joint declaration. The document signed in 1956, among other things, stipulates that the Soviet Union would transfer the two disputed islands - Habomai and Shikotan - to Japan following the conclusion of the peace treaty.
The year that followed the two leaders 'agreement to use the declaration as the basis for peace negotiations saw a series of frequent meetings between Putin and Abe and the nations' foreign ministers.