Putin tells Shinzo Abe: "Let's sign peace deal this year"

Japanese business mission to visit Russia’s Kuril Islands – Putin & Abe

Japanese business mission to visit Russia’s Kuril Islands – Putin & Abe

"Let's conclude a peace treaty - not now but by the end of the year, without any preconditions", the Russian president said.

Putin and Abe have held numerous meetings over the past few years in a bid to solve the dispute over the islands known in Japan as the Northern Territories.

There was no immediate response from Abe, whose country has sought the return of the islands that lie northeast of Hokkaido since the war.

The top government spokesman also said Japan will not change its position of seeking to resolve the issue of the islands' sovereignty, before concluding the peace treaty with Russian Federation.

Russian and Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said that work on a future agreement would continue as usual, and a Japanese official made clear that Tokyo wants an agreement on possession of the islands before it will sign a peace treaty.

Russian Federation and Japan are in dispute over a chain of Pacific islands and as a result have still not formally ended their World War Two hostilities.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking to reporters, described Putin's proposal as an impromptu idea and said the two leaders had not yet discussed it.

It has kept the two countries from signing a peace accord.

Xi and Putin had their third meeting in four months, charting the future course of the China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination and exchanging views on major worldwide and regional issues, Wang said. "This stance hasn't changed".

His comments came just days after confessing that the territorial dispute between Japan and Russian Federation, which has dragged on for decades, was unlikely to be resolved in the near future. "Putin does not expect anything", Kunadze told the Echo of Moscow radio station.

Establishing its sovereignty over the islands is the crucial issue for Japan, so it would be unlikely to sign a deal without first receiving some assurances from the Kremlin over the fate of the islands.

Meeting Abe on the sidelines of the forum in Vladivostok two days earlier, Putin had told the Japanese prime minister that "it would be naive to think that it can be resolved quickly".

"We've been trying to solve the territorial dispute for 70 years".

These were occupied by the old Soviet Union in 1945 but have always been claimed by Japan.

Russian Federation began its biggest war games since the fall of the Soviet Union on Tuesday close to its border with China, mobilising 300,000 troops in a show of force that will include joint exercises with the Chinese army.China and Russian Federation have staged joint drills before but not on such a large scale, and the Vostok-2018 (East-2018) exercise signals closer military ties as well as sending an unspoken reminder to Beijing that Moscow is able and ready to defend its sparsely populated far east.