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Japan PM urges Putin to work together to resolve island dispute

[VLADIVOSTOK, Russia] Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday to work together to resolve once and for all an island row that has marred ties for more than seven decades.

Mr Abe made the appeal in a speech delivered at a business conference in the Russian port city of Vladivostok, with Mr Putin in attendance.

"As the leader of Japan, I am firmly convinced of the correctness of the Japanese position, while you, Vladimir, as the leader of Russia, are entirely confident of the correctness of the Russian position," Mr Abe said. "Yet, if we continue on like this, this very same discussion will continue for yet more decades to come. By leaving the situation as it is, neither you nor I will be able to leave better possibilities to future generations."

Japan claims a string of Russia-controlled western Pacific islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and Southern Kuriles in Russia.

The territorial row over the island chain, seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War Two, has upset diplomatic relations ever since, precluding a formal peace treaty between the two countries.

Mr Abe's father, Shintaro Abe, worked to resolve the dispute in the 1980s as foreign minister.

The speech comes one day after he held talks with Mr Putin and agreed to have two more summit meetings by the end of the year to accelerate peace treaty negotiations.

"Vladimir, in order to carve out towards the future bilateral relations overflowing with unlimited potential, I am resolved to putting forth all my strength to advance the relationship between Japan and Russia, together with you," Mr Abe said.

Concessions over the islands would carry risks for Mr Putin but could boost Japanese investment in Russia at a time when Moscow, battered by low global oil prices and Western sanctions, badly needs an injection of cash.

"The economies of Russia and Japan are not in rivalry. I am fully confident that ours is a relationship in which each complements the other in a magnificent way," Mr Abe said.