The traditional overseas trip by the prime minister during the recent Golden Week break took place amid a land-sale scandal that involved Prime Minister Shinzo Abe himself, as well as a succession of other scandals that involved a number of his Cabinet ministers. Departing Japan, Abe’s first destination was Russia. Following the “success” of the Japan-Russia summit in December last year, the stated purpose of the visit was to move forward with the agreement reached at that summit, toward a resolution of the Northern Territories issue, involving the question of disputed islands off the coast of Hokkaido.

So what really was the outcome of the Abe-Putin summit talks on April 27? As usual, the prime minister’s office labeled them a “success.” But what progress was made in discussions on the expansion of “visa-free” travel by former islanders to visit ancestral graves, and on carrying out joint economic activities in a form that does not compromise Japanese or Russian sovereignty over the Northern Territories, both of which were promised at the previous talks?

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