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TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s foreign minister pledged Tuesday to continue talks with Russia even though the two countries still lack a World War II peace treaty, saying Moscow is key to resolving international threats from Syria and North Korea.

Fumio Kishida also announced $350 million in new aid to help stabilize Syria and its neighboring countries amid the region’s massive refugee crisis, following $810 million in earlier humanitarian support.

Kishida said in a speech in Tokyo that a diplomatic dialogue between Japan and Russia is indispensable, even though a territorial dispute has prevented them from technically ending their World War II hostilities. He said the two sides are seeking to hold summit talks “at the most appropriate time” this year.

Media reports say Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might visit Russia in April for talks with President Vladimir Putin ahead of a Group of Seven leaders’ meeting in Japan in May.

“The international community is faced with various challenges, and Russia’s constructive role is essential in resolving the problems,” Kishida said, citing North Korea, Syria and the threat of terrorism. “In that context, political dialogue, especially at a political level, is indispensable.”

Japan and Russia never signed a post-World War II peace treaty because of conflicting claims over islands north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido. The Soviet Union seized the four island groups in 1945.

Abe has sought to make progress on the territorial issue with Russia, but possible plans for a visit by Putin to Japan were put off following the Ukraine conflict and other issues.

Outlining Japanese diplomacy for this year, Kishida expressed hope to visit China in the spring for talks with his counterpart, Wang Yi, to improve relations and resume high-level economic talks that have been stalled since 2010.


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