Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe say they will closely cooperate in an attempt to ease tensions between North Korea and rival nations over Pyongyang's ballistic-missile program.
At a joint news conference on April 27 in Moscow, the two leaders also said they would like to see the resumption of six-party international talks to seek a peaceful resolution to the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.
The six-party talks involve Russia, China, the United States, Japan, South Korea, and North Korea.
Putin told reporters, "In my opinion, and in the opinion of the prime minister, the situation on the Korean Peninsula has unfortunately gotten a lot worse."
"We call on all governments involved in regional matters to refrain from using belligerent rhetoric and to strive for peaceful constructive dialogue," Putin said.
Abe urged Pyongyang to avoid taking any actions that could be seen as provocative by other countries.
PHOTO GALLERY: The Kurile Islands: Why World War II Never Ended (Click To Open)
Tensions have risen on the Korean Peninsula with harsh words between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump over Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic-missile programs, which have been banned by the United Nations.
The United States has sent to the region a Navy strike group, which has been joined by Japanese and South Korean warships and which North Korea has threatened to sink.
Putin and Abe on April 27 were unable to reach a major breakthrough in the decades-old dispute over a group of islands north of Japan that Tokyo calls the Northern Territories and Moscow calls the Southern Kuriles.
The Soviet Union seized the islands off Japan's northern coast during the closing days of World War II. Japan still claims the islands as its territory.
The dispute has harmed relations ever since, preventing Moscow and Tokyo from signing a peace treaty to formally end World War II.
In a small sign of progress, Putin said he had agreed to start flights for former Japanese residents to travel to the islands in order to "visit graves of ancestors."
Putin said the move, which will greatly simplify travel for Japanese citizens, was made to help "create an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding."
Abe also said a Japanese business delegation will visit the islands before the end of May to study the possibilities for cooperation with Russia firms.
With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and TASS