Japan and Russia vowed Tuesday that the two countries will discuss "every possible option" to settle a decades-old territorial dispute when their leaders hold talks in July in Italy.
Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said after meeting Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Tokyo Tuesday evening that he was encouraged that Putin has a "strong will" to reach a final settlement on the territorial row involving four Russian-controlled islands off Hokkaido, which has kept the two countries from signing a post-World War II peace treaty, Kyodo News reported.
During Putin's visit, Japan and Russia signed a pact on nuclear energy utilization, aiming to expand cooperation in the field.
The two countries also signed a pact to simplify customs procedures to spur relations in energy, trade and investment, and other economic areas.
They also agreed to exchange and share information in clamping down crimes more directly, rather than through diplomatic channels.
However, Japan always believed the unsettled territory dispute had been a major hindrance to deepen ties with Russia.
It has maintained that Tokyo will conclude no peace treaty with Moscow unless Russia declares all the four islands, known in Japanas the Northern Territories and in Russia as the Southern Kurils, belong to Japan.
Putin said in an interview with Kyodo News before he left Moscow that "it is necessary to create conditions and to develop relations in all directions in order to tackle problems of such a level and difficulty."