SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Japan in the autumn, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Saturday, a sign of improving ties between the two countries whose relations have been strained by territorial disputes.
Abe invited Putin to visit Japan in 2014 while on a trip to Moscow last April, during which they agreed to revive talks on resolving a seven-decade dispute over a chain of islands known in Russia as the Southern Kuriles and in Japan as the Northern Territories.
"It has been decided that President Putin will visit Japan this autumn," Abe told reporters after his talks with the Russian president in the Winter Olympics host city of Sochi.
Abe's trip to attend the Games and hold his fifth summit with Putin since taking office 13 months ago, stands in marked contrast to Japan's sharply deteriorating ties with China and South Korea, involving spats over tiny uninhabited islands.
The Japanese premier said he wanted to "keep up the pace" on talks with Russia, adding that relations had been improving rapidly since his April visit.
Putin went to Japan as president in 2005 and as prime minister in 2009. Abe's visit in April was the first official visit to Moscow by a Japanese prime minister in a decade.
(Reporting by Timothy Heritage; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Janet Lawrence)