- Associated Press - Friday, September 14, 2018

TOKYO (AP) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday he will meet again this year for more talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Putin’s proposal for the two countries to sign a peace treaty and discuss the status of disputed islands.

Japan, however, wants to resolve the territorial dispute before signing a peace treaty, Abe said during a policy debate in his party, repeating the country’s longstanding position.

Abe returned from Russia on Thursday after meeting with Putin and attending an economic conference. He said that the two leaders are likely to discuss a treaty when they meet again later this year.

Putin said Wednesday the countries should sign a peace treaty before the end of the year and later discuss the islands.

“We need to read signals from President Putin’s words,” Abe said. “There is no doubt that (Putin) expressed his willingness about the need to sign a peace treaty.”

Abe has been pushing for a way forward in the dispute, with the two leaders holding talks more often than ever before. The two sides are working on joint economic projects on the disputed islands for the first time, in hopes of further improving their ties.

The Soviet Union took the four southernmost Kuril Islands, which Japan calls the Northern Territories, in the closing days of World War II. The island dispute has prevented the two sides from concluding a postwar peace treaty formally ending the hostilities.

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