• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto have affirmed that they will work together on their respective diplomatic relations with Russia.

“We affirmed our close coordination in our relationships with Russia … an important neighbor for both of our nations,” Abe said at a joint news conference after they met in Helsinki.

Finland shares an extensive land border with Russia, while Japan is involved in the decadeslong dispute over the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido that has stood in the way of a World War II peace treaty.

The leaders agreed to further advance their strategic partnership by working together in response to challenges facing the international community, including North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development programs.

“Each of our countries respects the work that the other is doing to give rise to a more stable world order,” Niinisto said.

They also agreed to work together on environmental issues in the Arctic region, reflecting Finland’s two-year chairmanship of the multilateral Arctic Council through 2019. Japan has observer status on the council.

Abe’s visit to Finland is part of a roughly weeklong European tour that already took him to Germany for the Group of 20 summit. His visit to Finland is the first by a Japanese prime minister since 2006, according to the Foreign Ministry.

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