Tokyo might promise Moscow that returning the disputed islands off Hokkaido to Japan will not mean that U.S. military forces will be stationed there in line with Japan-U.S. security arrangements, diplomatic sources have said.

Tokyo believes such a promise will facilitate negotiations on the long-simmering dispute because Russia is particularly sensitive about U.S. military moves.

The idea has surfaced ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin's trip to Japan in December. Japan sees the visit as a chance to make progress on the decades-old territorial row, which has prevented the two countries from concluding a peace treaty to formally end World War II.