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Japan PM Abe in Vladivostok for bilateral talks with Putin, Xi

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe waves at Tokyo's Haneda airport on Sept. 10, 2018, before leaving for Vladivostok to attend an annual economic forum and hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Kyodo)

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (Kyodo) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Vladivostok on Monday to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin later in the day on the sidelines of an annual economic forum.

During his four-day stay in the Russian Far East port city, Abe is also scheduled to meet with other leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, the government said.

"I will certainly move ahead Japan-Russian relations toward the settlement of the territorial issue and the signing of a (postwar) peace treaty," Abe told reporters at Tokyo's Haneda airport before taking off.

In their talks on Monday, the day before the Eastern Economic Forum, Abe and Putin are expected to discuss how to push ahead with joint economic activities on disputed islands off Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido, according to Japanese officials. The two leaders will be meeting for the 22nd time.

Japan is looking to build trust through the economic activities as a step toward settling a decades-long territorial row over the Russian-held islands and eventually signing a post-World War II peace treaty. Russia, for its part, aims to attract Japanese investment in the resource-rich but underdeveloped Far East region.

The islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group, which are called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia, were seized by the Soviet Union after Japan's surrender in World War II in August 1945.

Attention will be focused on whether the two sides can work out details of the planned activities on the islets in the five areas that Abe and Putin agreed on last year in Vladivostok, including aquaculture and tourism.

Last month, the two countries failed to dispatch business missions to the islands due to bad weather.

It remains unclear whether the two sides will be able to come up with a special framework that does not compromise either side's legal position on the islands' sovereignty or create legal problems in implementing the economic activities.

The Abe-Putin summit comes ahead of Russia's planned large-scale military exercise in the Far East and Siberian regions, although Moscow has explained it will not take place on the contested islands.

On Security, Abe and Putin may exchange views on cooperation toward the denuclearization of North Korea ahead of the third summit between South Korean President Moon Jae In and the North's leader Kim Jong Un scheduled for Sept. 18-20.

The Eastern Economic Forum has been held since 2015 under Putin's initiative aimed at attracting investment to the Far East region. Kim was invited to the event, but the Russian government said he will not take part.

In the Japan-China summit scheduled on Wednesday, Abe and Xi are expected to talk about how to promote ties further as this year marks the 40th anniversary of a bilateral peace and friendship treaty.

As part of high-level reciprocal visits, Abe is looking to fix the date of his planned visit to China on Oct. 23, when the treaty took effect 40 years ago, Japanese government sources said.

Abe and Xi are likely to discuss ways to promote bilateral cooperation under Xi's "One Belt, One Road" cross-border infrastructure initiative.

The Japanese prime minister is also scheduled to deliver a speech in the regional economic meeting and hold separate bilateral meetings with South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak Yon and Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battulga, according to the government.

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