Visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed Friday to start talks on potential "joint economic activities" they could launch on the four disputed Russia-held islands off Hokkaido, saying it could be an important first step toward resolving their decades-long territorial row.

The leaders also announced an expansion in economic cooperation comprising about 80 business deals between companies and government bodies from both sides.

A senior government official said Japan's combined investments, loans and credit line for Russia will total ¥300 billion under the deals.