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Abe, Putin likely to meet on fringes of G-8 summit: source

Kyodo

Japan and Russia are arranging a meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit scheduled for June 17 and 18 in Northern Ireland, according to a government source in Tokyo.

Abe believes it is vital to build a relationship of trust with Putin to move forward territorial talks over four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido seized by Soviet forces at the end of the war, the source said.

During the upcoming meeting, the two leaders are expected to reaffirm the goal of holding territorial talks at the vice ministerial level as agreed upon in their talks in April in Moscow. Tokyo hopes to arrange talks in Russia after the G-8 summit by month’s end, the source said.

Following the April meeting in which Abe and Putin agreed to accelerate the territorial talks, the two sides planned to hold a vice ministerial-level meeting, but they have yet to finalize a date.

Abe also aims to meet with Putin on the sidelines of the Group of 20 advanced and emerging economies to be held in Russia in September, with an eye to moving the territorial negotiations forward, the source said.

At the bilateral meeting later this month, Abe and Putin will likely discuss North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, while agreeing to promote cooperation in Russia’s Far East, the source said.

The disputed islands off Hokkaido — Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and the Habomai islets — were seized by the Soviet Union following Japan’s surrender in World War II.

Japan has asked Russia to return all four islands, while Moscow has said it can return only two after concluding a formal postwar peace treaty, as stipulated by the 1956 joint declaration that ended WWII hostilities between the two countries and restored bilateral diplomatic relations.

The G-8 comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and Russia. Tokyo is also arranging bilateral talks with U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron on the sidelines of the G-8 summit.