MOSCOW (AP) — Japan's foreign minister met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg on Friday and gave him a personal message from the Japanese prime minister ahead of Putin's upcoming visit to Tokyo.
A disagreement over the southern Kuril islands — which Japan calls the Northern Territories — has kept the two countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their World War II hostilities.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's two visits to Russia this year have led many to believe Tokyo and Moscow are moving toward a breakthrough. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida would not disclose the contents of the message he delivered to Putin.
Putin said in televised comments Friday that Russia is working on the Japanese prime minister's proposals to expand ties between the two countries, but he made no mention of the Kuril islands.
In Moscow, a deputy Russian foreign minister in an interview with the RIA Novosti news agency sought to dispel Japan's expectations that Russia would be willing to give up one or two islands to secure Japan's agreement to the peace treaty.
"Our position at the peace treaty talks has not changed. We proceed from an indisputable need for Tokyo to acknowledge the results of the Second World War, including the territorial issues regarding the south Kuril islands," Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov said Friday. "This is a starting point of any serious discussion on this problem."