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International relations

Putin casts shadow on Japan's hopes for island return

Abe to visit Russia in January, seeking to accelerate talks toward peace treaty

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a news conference on Nov. 15 in Singapore. Putin raised questions about the details of a 1956 declaration to be used as a basis for peace treaty negotiations with Japan.   © Reuters

TOKYO/MOSCOW -- One day after Japan and Russia agreed to accelerate talks toward a long-delayed peace treaty, efforts to settle the territorial dispute that has long blocked a pact have already run into their first potential stumbling block.

The 1956 joint declaration notes that the Soviet Union is ready to cede two of the southern Kuril Islands to Japan, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Russian reporters in Singapore on Nov. 15. But "it says nothing about specific legal grounds for ceding these islands, their subsequent jurisdiction or the procedure for handing them over to Japan," he added, immediately dampening Japan's hopes for progress.

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