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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mori's Russia Trip May Be Postponed

TOKYO — Talks between Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Russian President Vladimir Putin, expected to be held in Russia in February, may be delayed at least a month, Foreign Minister Yohei Kono said on Thursday.

The summit, set to address a territorial dispute that has kept the two nations from signing a treaty formally ending World War Two hostilities, had appeared likely on February 25 and 26 in the Siberian city of Irkutsk after talks earlier this week between Kono and his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov.

But a request to delay the meeting came from Russia on Thursday, shortly after Kono's return to Japan.

"It appears that February 25 and 26 are difficult for Russia," Kono told reporters. "We had a message from Russia requesting a postponement of the meeting by about a month."

Japanese officials said no reason was given for the sudden request.

"It appears to be something to do with their domestic affairs," chief government spokesman Yasuo Fukuda told a regular news conference.

Ties between Russia and Japan have been strained for years over a territorial dispute involving four tiny Russian-held islands just north of Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido.

Japan wants the islands, which were seized by Soviet troops in the waning days of World War Two, returned before it will sign any peace treaty or hand out substantial financial aid.

In 1997, Japan and Russia agreed to try to resolve the dispute by the end of 2000. With that deadline now passed, Japan hopes to seek a new approach for breaking the deadlock the next time the two nations' leaders meet.