• Kyodo

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Senior Japanese and Russian diplomats will meet next Thursday in Moscow to prepare for a summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Vladimir Putin in December, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday.

Vice Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama and First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov are expected to discuss a decades-old dispute over four Russian-administered, Japanese-claimed islets off Hokkaido.

“The dialogue will focus on global issues the two sides have strategic interests in, such as the North Korean and Syrian issues. At the same time, they will also discuss bilateral issues,” Kishida told reporters.

Abe has shown strong enthusiasm to make progress on the territorial talks when he meets Putin on Dec. 15 in his home prefecture of Yamaguchi. The territorial row has prevented the two neighbors from concluding a post-World War II peace treaty.

The strategic dialogue between Sugiyama and Titov will be the first such talks for the countries since February 2013.

They will also discuss responses to North Korea’s repeated nuclear tests and missile launches despite global calls for the reclusive state to refrain from provocative acts.

Following a fifth nuclear test by Pyongyang last month, Japan is seeking cooperation from Russia and other countries to adopt a new U.N. Security Council resolution to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea.

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