Japan on Monday welcomed the re-election of Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying his consolidated power base will help bilateral efforts to conclude a peace treaty by resolving the long-standing territorial dispute.

“He was re-elected with a very high (voter) approval rate. It’s desirable in terms of consistency of negotiations for a peace treaty,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told a news conference.

“We’d like President Putin to exert strong leadership.”

Tokyo argues that return of the four islands off Hokkaido, occupied by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II and still held by Russia, is an indispensable prerequisite for concluding a peace treaty with Moscow.

Japan hopes that Putin will build an administration powerful enough to contain domestic opposition to any compromise on the territorial row, and thereby pave the way for more Japanese-Russian economic cooperation.

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