Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed the long-impending World War II peace treaty issue during their meeting on day one of their two-day meet in Japan. But the two leaders did not discuss the sovereignty of Kuril Islands, the Kremlin said on Thursday (15 December).

The islands located in the Western Pacific, which Japan refers to as the Northern Territories, were seized by Soviet forces at the end of the Second World War and have remained a sticky point between the two countries since then.

Abe, who extended an enchanting welcome to the Russian president at a hot spring resort in his hometown of Nagato city in Yamaguchi Prefecture on Thursday, had vowed to resolve the issue through this meeting. However, the two leaders could only agree on a joint Russian-Japanese economic activity deal on the four disputed southern Kuril Islands.

Following their first meeting of the day, Abe told reporters that he had a 95-minute one-on-one talk with Putin, specifically about the peace treaty issues, including possible joint economic activities on the four disputed islands, the Japan Times reported.

Russia's Tass news agency quoted Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov as saying that the joint economic activities will include fishing, mariculture, tourism, medicine, ecology and a number of others. He also said that the economic activities would be conducted on the basis of Russian legislation, as "this is a territory of Russia".

"Experts had spent several weeks working on the text only to fail to produce a final version that would suit both sides. The two leaders then had to get down working to spend some 40 minutes to agree on a final version of the text, which will be published tomorrow," Ushakov reportedly said.

"The presidents will instruct the experts of both countries to enter into detailed consultations on coordinating the conditions, forms and areas of joint economic activity in the South Kurils," he added.

Earlier, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov clarified that the two leaders did not hold any discussions over the sovereignty of the islands.

According to Tass news agency, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Putin and Abe have agreed to resume a "two-plus-two" meeting involving their foreign and defence ministers. However, Tokyo denied any such agreement was reached.

Abe and Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to discuss economic cooperation on the disputed Kuril islands, a row that has kept them from signing a peace treaty formally ending the Second World War REUTERS/Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool

Both the countries declined to divulge any details about the contents of the first day's meeting, but Abe reportedly assured the media that they will hold a joint news conference on Friday to share the contents of their two-day meeting.

On day two, the leaders are scheduled to hold talks in Tokyo.