Abe strikes dovish tone on Russia at islands rally

Iturup, one of four islands known as the Kuriles in Russia. (AFP pic)

TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe struck a conciliatory tone with Russia at an annual rally Thursday to demand the return of small northern isles claimed by both nations.

The conservative leader did not explicitly demand sovereignty of the Southern Kuril islands, an emotive issue that has prevented the Asian economic power from signing an official peace treaty with Moscow since World War II.

Instead, he vowed to focus on concluding an official peace treaty with Russia, after meeting President Vladimir Putin 25 times, most recently last month.