Japan and Russia are arranging to hold talks at the director-general level in Tokyo on Monday to pave the way for bringing Russian President Vladimir Putin to Japan next year, government sources said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Putin held talks in November in Beijing and agreed to reschedule Putin's visit for 2015. The original plan was for Putin to visit this year, but that fell through after Japan joined the United States and European nations in sanctioning Russia in March for annexing part of Ukraine.
Japan is keen to make progress with Russia on negotiations concerning four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido seized by the Soviet Union in the closing days of the war in 1945. The territorial row has prevented the two nations from concluding a peace treaty.
At Monday's meeting, Tokyo may lodge a protest if Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Trutnev, in coming days, decides to visit the disputed islands. Trutnev is reportedly planning to travel to two of the four as early as Sunday.
The two countries, represented by Hajime Hayashi, director-general of the Foreign Ministry's European Affairs Bureau, and Andrey Tatarinov, director at the Russian Foreign Ministry's Third Asian Department, are expected to discuss when to resume a vice ministerial-level meeting as agreed on by Abe and Putin, among other issues.
Their senior diplomats might also discuss a plan for Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida to visit Russia, the sources said.