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No Breakthrough On Russia-Japan Islands Dispute

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on December 16.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's trip to Japan has produced an agreement to hold talks on joint economic development of four islands claimed by both countries, but no breakthrough in the territorial dispute that dates back to World War II and beyond.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the agreement on December 16, after two days of talks with Putin in Japan.

Both Putin and Abe said joint development of the islands, which Russia calls the Southern Kuriles and Japan calls the Northern Territories, would be an important step toward a peace treaty.

The dispute over the four islands seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from signing a treaty formally ending the war.

But reaching agreement on joint development of the small, windswept islands northeast of Japan's Hokkaido could be difficult, as observers say Russia is interested in Japanese investment but is highly reluctant to cede sovereignty over the islands.

Russia says that any development should be governed by Russian laws. Japan has called for an arrangement that Abe has said would not "infringe the sovereignty positions of either side."

Putin's trip to Japan was his first official visit to a member of the Group of Seven (G7) leading industrialized nations -- the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Canada, and Japan -- since Russia angered the G7 by seizing Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

In an interview with Japanese media before the trip, Putin said the sanctions that Japan has joined Western countries in imposing on Russia were an obstacle to cooperation.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP
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