President Vladimir Putin said Russia would strive to reach an elusive deal on a territorial dispute and normalise relations with Japan ahead of his visit to the country later this week.
Putin will arrive in Japan on Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the hope of breaking the ice on an agreement over the Kuril Islands, seized by Soviet troops in 1945 and demanded back by Tokyo ever since.
The dispute has prevented the countries from signing a formal treaty to end World War II and has hampered their bilateral ties.
“The absence of a peace treaty between Russia and Japan is an anachronism inherited from the past and this anachronism should be eliminated,” Putin said in an interview with Japan’s Nippon TV and Yomiuri newspaper, according to a transcript released by the Kremlin.
“But how to do this is a difficult question.”
Putin said the absence of a peace treaty was impacting bilateral relations.
“We, of course, will strive to conclude this treaty. We want full normalisation of our relations.”
Abe will host Putin at the hot springs of his ancestral city of Nagato, a location the Kremlin strongman said he hoped would be conducive to “a frank, very substantive and, I hope, fruitful conversation.”
Meeting the Japanese journalists in the Kremlin, Putin showed off a female Akita dog called Yume, which he was given as a puppy by Tokyo in 2012 in return for Russia’s help after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Japan had offered to give Putin a “bridegroom” for the dog on his upcoming visit but he turned this down, an aide to Abe said Sunday.
The Russian president had earlier introduced Yume to Abe when he visited the Black Sea city of Sochi in 2014.
Putin said Yume is “in great form,” and is a “strict” guard dog.
His two-day visit to Japan, which includes a stop in Tokyo, has long been in the works and comes on the heels of two visits by Abe to Russia this year.
Experts view recent rapprochement efforts as a positive development for Moscow’s trade ties with Japan but doubt that either side will budge on the territorial issue.
The two leaders are expected to sign a series of agreements to bolster business ties battered by sanctions slapped on Moscow by staunch US ally Tokyo over the Ukraine crisis.