NUSA DUA, INDONESIA – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin met Monday in Indonesia on the sidelines of a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to apparently discuss a range of issues, including a bilateral territorial dispute.
The talks in Bali are the fourth direct contact between the Abe and Putin over the past seven months. In past meetings, the two leaders built mutual trust on resolving the dispute, which has prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty to end World War II, a Japanese official said.
On Bali, they are expected to agree to improve security relations via dialogue involving their foreign and defense ministers.
At their meeting last month in St. Petersburg, Russia, on the margins of the Group of 20 summit of major economies, Abe and Putin agreed to hold the countries’ first “two-plus-two” security talks in November in Japan.
That will bring Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to Tokyo next month to chat with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.
Japan holds similar dialogues with other partners, including the United States and Australia.
Abe and Putin are also expected to confirm that their governments will continue the territorial talks, which were held most recently in August, at senior official levels.
Tokyo and Moscow have been at odds over the sovereignty of Russian-administered islands off Hokkaido, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia, which were seized by the Soviet Union in 1945 shortly after Japan’s surrender in World War II.
After holding a summit in April in Moscow, the leaders said in a joint statement that Japan and Russia will proceed with economic cooperation, with Tokyo apparently trying to strengthen bilateral ties through various aid packages for Russian development projects before injecting momentum into the territorial talks.
Also among the goals of such cooperation is the deepening of business ties between the countries. Russia is likely to accept further Japanese investment to develop its Far East, a region known for abundant oil and gas reserves that are a major attraction to resource-poor Japan.
On Monday, Abe and Putin are also likely to exchange views on the civil war in Syria, a Russian ally, and agree that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad should respect a recent U.N. resolution calling for the dismantling of all of Syria’s chemical weapons.