Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (file photo) (AFP)
17 November 2005 -- Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Russian President Vladimir Putin are reportedly not likely to sign a joint political statement on their disputed territories at their upcoming meeting.
Japan's Kyodo news agency reported today that Koizumi sees "a substantial gap in opinions" between the two countries concerning four Pacific Ocean islands, which Russia calls the Southern Kuriles and Japan refers to as the Northern Territories.
The Soviet Army occupied the islands near the end of World War II, but Japan wants them back. The dispute has prevented the two countries from concluding a formal peace treaty.
Kyodo news agency today said the Japanese prime minister still hopes to build mutual confidence and expand exchanges over Putin's three-day visit to Japan scheduled to begin on 20 November.