• Kyodo


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe left Sunday for a weeklong visit to major European countries and Russia to lay the groundwork for the Group of Seven summit he will host this month and to address a decades-old territorial row with Moscow.

Abe plans to confer with European leaders on how to support the world economy amid China’s economic slowdown, which is expected to be on the summit agenda, government officials said. He will visit Italy, France, Belgium, Germany and Britain before traveling on to Russia.

“I hope to hold frank and candid discussions with the countries’ leaders. The biggest theme is how to deal with the world economy at present,” Abe told reporters at Haneda airport before his departure.

The prime minister also plans to discuss counterterrorism measures and appeal to European members of the G-7 to emphatically denounce North Korea’s nuclear tests and missile launches at the summit, the officials said.

The Ise-Shima summit slated for May 26 to 27 in Mie Prefecture will bring together the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

In Belgium, Abe will hold talks with EU leaders including European Council President Donald Tusk to exchange opinions on speeding up negotiations on a Japan-EU economic partnership agreement, the officials said.

On his way back from Europe, Abe is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks in the southern city of Sochi on issues including the long-standing dispute over four Russian-held islets off Hokkaido.

“I hope to resolve the issue by patiently negotiating based on a policy of resolving the issue of the ownership of the islands and concluding a peace treaty,” Abe said at the airport.

The dispute over the Russian-held islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia, has prevented the two countries from peace treaty to officially end World War II.

The government hopes Abe’s meeting with Putin in Sochi will pave the way for the Russian president to visit Japan, something once tentatively planned for 2014 but postponed due to tensions over Ukraine.

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