Russian President Putin to visit Japan in December: Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin will be making a trip to Japan in December, said the Kremlin on Aug 30, 2016.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will be making a trip to Japan in December, said the Kremlin on Aug 30, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (AFP) - President Vladimir Putin will visit Japan in December as Moscow and Tokyo strive to ease lingering tensions over disputed islands, the Kremlin said on Tuesday (Aug 30).

"Vladimir Putin's long-delayed visit to Japan will take place in December," Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov told reporters.

"The time and date have already been agreed to, but we will announce them with the approval of the Japanese side."

Tokyo-Moscow relations are hamstrung by a row dating back to the end of World War II when Soviet troops seized the four southernmost islands in the Pacific Kuril chain, known as the Northern Territories in Japan.

The tensions have prevented the countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending wartime hostilities, hindering trade and investment ties.

Putin - who last visited Japan in 2005 - is set to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday on the sidelines of an economic forum in the far eastern Russian city of Vladivostok.

Abe made a visit to Russia in May and the Kremlin has been mooting a possible return trip by Putin before the end of the year as both sides look to rekindle talks aimed at resolving the territorial dispute.

Tokyo is closely allied with Washington and has slapped sanctions against Moscow over its annexation of Crimea and the unrest in Ukraine.

Over the years leaders from the two nations have tried to make headway on resolving their lingering dispute but a solution has proved elusive, and still looks some way off.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier this year that Russia wants to "move forward" in relations with Japan but is not prepared to budge on the "result of World War II".

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev infuriated Tokyo last year when he visited the disputed islands, which are home to some 19,000 Russians.