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Abe determined to end isle dispute with Russia during his generation

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed Monday his determination to resolve a thorny territorial dispute with Russia over islands off Hokkaido ahead of his meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin later this week.


During a meeting with Kimio Waki, president of the Association of Residents of Chishima and Habomai Islands, and others at the prime minister’s office, Abe said, “I will approach the bilateral summit with determination to bring an end to the territorial issue during my generation.”


Abe and Putin will meet on Thursday and Friday in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Abe’s home prefecture, as well as in Tokyo.


“I think you have a strong hope to see (the territorial issue) resolved in every way possible while you are alive and well,” Abe told Waki, the former residents’ representative. “I will make an all-out effort to make progress on the territorial issue, even if it is just a step closer toward a solution.”


Japan calls the four Russian-controlled islands — Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group — the Northern Territories while they are known as the Southern Kurils in Russia. The islands were seized by the Soviet Union after Japan’s surrender in World War II in August 1945.


“We strongly believe that we will be able to return to the islands someday. We have very high hopes for the meeting on Thursday,” Waki, leader of the former residents, said as he handed Abe a letter addressed to Putin.


The letter contains an explanation about their wish to return to their home islands so they can visit their ancestors’ graves freely, Waki told reporters after the meeting.


The meeting between Abe and Waki ran for about an hour, giving former island residents the opportunity to share their opinions with the prime minister ahead of the upcoming bilateral summit.

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