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The latest summit meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin, held in Vladivostok last week, failed to produce any progress in talks between the two countries to resolve the decades-long territorial row over a group of Russian-held islands off Hokkaido. Meeting for the 27th time, they only confirmed that they would continue to work on the issue — which has prevented Tokyo and Moscow from concluding a World War II peace treaty — in a “future-oriented” manner. They did not break much ground either over the proposed joint economic development of the islands — which Abe hopes will expedite the peace treaty talks — except to agree on holding a pilot project on tourism next month.

Last November, Abe and Putin agreed in Singapore that they should accelerate the talks on the basis of the 1956 Japan-Soviet joint statement, which called for the handover to Japan of two of the disputed islands — Shikotan and the Habomai islets — after they conclude the peace treaty. That was deemed a departure from Tokyo’s position of seeking the return of all the islands, including the much larger Kunashiri and Etorofu.

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