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International relations

Abe drops mentions of 'four' islands in Russia dispute

Phrasing change leaves both sides wiggle room on territorial issue

The southern Kuril Islands, which Japan calls the Northern Territories, were occupied by the Soviet Union after World War II and are administered by Russia.
The southern Kuril Islands, which Japan calls the Northern Territories, were occupied by the Soviet Union after World War II and are administered by Russia.

TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is working to put a lid on references to disputed northern islands as a set of four, apparently targeting the more likely prospect of winning back just two from Russia as a start.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been receptive to this message of compromise, creating a harmony that is helping to propel bilateral negotiations on the issue.

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