Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Japan in December, Moscow and Tokyo confirmed Tuesday.
The schedule for the visit could be decided when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets Putin later this week at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, Japan's top government spokesman said.
"I believe the most important thing in diplomacy is trust between the two leaders,” Yoshihide Suga said. “In that respect I think Prime Minister Abe and President Putin have that already in common. And we would thus like to negotiate the return of the four islands along the lines of the new approach signaled by Putin in the early meeting between the two leaders."
Suga also said the "new approach" to Japan-Russia relations was to focus on economic issues. He avoided giving a straight answer on whether Japan could accept a compromise in which all four islands were not returned to Japan, saying only that the question of the four islands must be "made clear."
Tokyo-Moscow relations have been hamstrung by the dispute over the islands in the Pacific, known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuriles in Russia, which the Soviet Union seized after it declared war on Japan on August 8, 1945. The move has prevented the countries from signing a peace treaty ending World War II.
Also, Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea, prompted Tokyo to join other Western countries, including the United States, in imposing sanctions on Moscow.
Abe has traveled to Russia several times and has met with Putin on several occasions. The Russian president, however, has not been to Japan since 2005.