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Japanese Premier Said To Shun Obama Request To Not Visit Russia

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has reportedly rejected a request by U.S. President Barack Obama that he not visit Russia.

Japanese media are reporting that U.S. President Barack Obama has asked Prime Minister Shinzo Abe not to visit Russia in May for talks with President Vladimir Putin.

Obama asked Abe to cancel his scheduled trip, which runs counter to U.S. policy of isolating Moscow over its aggression in Ukraine, the Kyodo and Jiji news agencies reported on February 24.

But Abe refused to comply with Obama's request in a phone conversation on February 9, and he remains likely to travel to Sochi, Russia, in early May to meet Putin.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry has not revealed what Abe and Obama discussed regarding the scheduled trip. It said most of the conversation was about responding to a rocket launch by North Korea.

The Japanese premier is keen to settle a decades-old territorial dispute with Russian over islands off Hokkaido that Japan claims but which are held by Russia. The dispute prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty after World War II.

Kyodo said Abe told Obama that resolving the territorial dispute will contribute to stability in the East Asian region.

Based on reporting by Kyodo, Jiji, and dpa