Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday his talks next month and beyond with Russian President Vladimir Putin will be very significant as he seeks to settle a long-standing territorial dispute with the country over a group of islets and sign a postwar peace treaty.
"I will build next-generation Japan-Russia ties," Abe said in a speech at the headquarters of Kyodo News in Tokyo. "From next month and thereafter, I believe summit meetings with President Putin will be extremely important."
Abe, who in September secured another three-year term as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, has recently repeated that he wants to "take inventory of Japan's postwar diplomacy."
Abe has said he plans to hold talks with Putin at least two more times by the end of the year in an attempt to break an impasse over the sovereignty of the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido. That could happen while both leaders are attending international meetings, such as the November summit in Argentina of the Group of 20 economies.
Abe's remarks came after Putin surprised him last month during a regional economic forum in Vladivostok by proposing the two countries conclude a peace pact "without any preconditions" by the end of 2018.
The islands are called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia. They were seized by the Soviet Union after Japan surrendered in World War II in August 1945.
On China, Abe said he wants to lift bilateral ties to a "new stage" when he makes a three-day visit to Beijing from Oct. 25 to hold talks with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
"I hope to expand exchanges between people of the two countries in all areas through reciprocal visits by the leaders," he said.
It will be Abe's first official visit to China, apart from trips to attend international conferences, since he returned to power in late 2012.
(Kunashiri, one of the four Russian-held disputed islands, seen in distance off Hokkaido)
Abe also reiterated his willingness to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to resolve outstanding issues, including Pyongyang's past abductions of Japanese nationals, which is one of his central political goals.
"I seek to normalize diplomatic relations (with Pyongyang) by settling the North Korean abduction, nuclear and missile issues and clearing away the sad past," he said.
Among major domestic political issues, the prime minister said he hopes nationwide discussions over the first-ever amendment to Japan's pacifist Constitution will deepen.
Abe seeks to clarify the ambiguous legal status of the Self-Defense Forces in the war-renouncing Article 9 of the supreme law to eradicate any room for doubt about the constitutionality of the Japanese troops.