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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hold a summit meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec. 1, 2018 (Photo by Shuhei Yokoyama for Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images).

Will Abe Be the Japanese Leader to Finally Sign a Peace Treaty With Russia?

Monday, Dec. 17, 2018

In December 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Japan and got a lavish welcome. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe received Putin at a hot springs resort in his ancestral hometown of Nagato, in southwestern Yamaguchi prefecture. He referred to Putin by his first name in public appearances, a rare personal touch in the formal world of Japanese diplomacy. During the run-up to the visit, Japanese officials even reached out to the Kremlin with an offer for a dog, a prized Akita breed, intended as a male companion to Yume, the female Akita that was sent to Putin as a Japanese gift in 2012.

The trip received wall-to-wall press coverage in Japan; it was enough to make anyone forget that the two countries are still technically at war, having never signed a peace treaty following the end of World War II. But Abe’s charm offensive yielded lackluster results for the Japanese government. Putin turned down the dog, arrived in Yamaguchi more than two and a half hours late, and returned to Moscow having made no progress in resolving a decades-long territorial dispute that has strained Russian-Japanese relations. ...

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