Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that he wanted to sign a formal peace treaty with Japan ending hostilities from World War II by the end of the year without conditions.
Seventy-three years after the war concluded, the two countries remain technically at war because of a territorial dispute over four Pacific islands.
“Let us sign the peace treaty … and later we will continue to talk about all of our disagreements as friends on the basis of a peace treaty,” Putin said at an economic conference in Vladivostok.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared open to a treaty, saying it was “not normal” that one still hasn’t been signed after seven decades.
“Japan and Russia — both President Putin and myself — share the same position and determination to solve our territorial disputes,” he said.
But a Japanese government spokesman said Japan’s position had not changed and that the issue of sovereignty over the islands needed to be resolved before signing any treaties with Russia.
The Soviet Union seized the four islands north of Hokkaido and east of Sakhalin in the closing days of World War II.
Russia calls the islands the Kurils, while Japan calls them the Northern Territories. Russia has sovereignty over the islands. Japan wants them back.
The islands are rich in minerals and rare metals, and its waters are excellent fishing grounds.
Putin and Abe have met more than 20 times to discuss the dispute.
Abe has proposed making the islands a joint economic zone, which could lead to a settlement.