Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet Russian President Vladmir Putin on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Beijing in November, the two leaders agreed Tuesday, a Japanese official said.
The decision comes as Abe tries to walk a fine line between joining the West in sanctions over Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine conflict and forging closer economic and energy ties after five summits with Putin last year.
During a 10-minute phone conversation, the two leaders also discussed Japan-Russia ties and Abe urged Putin to stabilize the situation in Ukraine, Noriaki Ikeda of the Foreign Ministry said.
“During the phone call the two sides agreed to make arrangements for a summit on the sidelines of APEC,” Ikeda said.
In a coordinated move with Western nations, Japan has imposed sanctions on Moscow for its annexation of the Crimea Peninsula in March and its involvement in a pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine.
Moscow denies sending troops and arms to the area.
Tokyo’s measures against Russia have been lighter than those of the United States or the European Union, and Abe has continued to try to court Moscow despite ties already being strained by the long-running territorial dispute over Russian-held islands off Hokkaido.
The Abe administration has also repeated it will maintain its policy of dialogue with Moscow and seek a peaceful and diplomatic resolution to the Ukraine conflict.
Putin and Abe, who are said to be on a first-name basis, last held bilateral talks in February in Sochi, where Abe traveled to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.
Putin had planned a return visit to Tokyo for November, but ties were strained after Japan imposed sanctions such as visa curbs, and Russia responded with counter-measures and a visit in September to one of the disputed islands by an aide to Putin.
The decision to hold talks with Putin is part of a broader diplomatic push by Abe.
He has also tried to arrange meetings with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who have not met him since he swept to power in late 2012.