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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov plans to make a visit to Japan within the next few months, with the trip’s schedule already being discussed with Tokyo.

Speaking at a news conference Friday in Moscow, Russia’s top diplomat expressed a desire to advance relations with Japan, saying a visit he had planned to make last year was postponed due to the change of power in the Japanese government.

“The visit will definitely take place,” Lavrov said.

But Lavrov remained firm in his position regarding a disputed group of islands lying off Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, saying they are the “indivisible territory of Russia.”

The dispute over the sovereignty of the islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia, has posed a major hurdle to the countries signing a peace treaty in the more than 70 years since the end of World War II.

Tokyo claims the Soviet Union seized the islands illegally soon after Japan’s surrender in August 1945, while Moscow argues it did so legitimately.

Regarding peace treaty negotiations, Lavrov underscored that since such a document would now be signed in the 21st century, it should demonstrate more than signaling the end of the war, and instead pave the way for the development of future Japan-Russia relations.

He expressed his support for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policy of signing a peace treaty before commencing talks on remaining issues, and said Russia had provided a draft text to Japan.

But Lavrov also voiced concern that Japan’s status as an ally of the United States is proving to be an obstacle to bilateral relations between Tokyo and Moscow, adding that should U.S. missile-defense systems be deployed in Japan, it would be considered a threat to his country.

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