Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, September 2, 2016. ©AP

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to contribute to a new era in relations between the two countries that are strained over a decades-long territorial dispute.
Abe made the request during a speech to the Eastern Economic Forum in the Russian city of Vladivostok on Saturday following a meeting with Putin a day earlier.
"Let's put an end to this abnormal situation which has lasted 70 years, and together start to build a new epoch in Russia-Japan ties that will last the next 70 years," Abe said.
He further proposed to the Russian leader that they should meet annually in Vladivostok in a bid to hammer out their differences.
Putin, for his part, said that while both Tokyo and Moscow wanted to defend their national interests, they needed to end the row once and for all.
"Today it is obvious that we can't let the chances that we have slide by," he said, adding, "Each of us looks at this problem through the prism of their national interests but we all agree on one thing - we need to solve the problem.”
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Putin and Abe had agreed to continue talks on the territorial dispute over the Kurile Islands, also known as the Northern Territories in Japan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (center R) shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a meeting on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, September 2, 2016. ©AFP

The contested islands, which were inhabited by the Japanese and under Tokyo’s control based on an agreement with Russia in 1855, were captured by the Soviet Union in 1945. Japan continues to lay claims to the islets in the Pacific Ocean.
Recently, Russia started constructing new modern compounds for its troops stationed on the islands; a move that irked Japan.
The territorial row has prevented Tokyo and Moscow from signing a peace treaty, hindering trade and investment cooperation.
However, the two sides seem to be making efforts to improve ties as Abe is on his second trip to Russia this year and Putin is set to visit Japan in December.