Vladimir Putin and Shinzo Abe hail cordial Japan-Russia relations

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 4:39am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 6:33am
 

Perhaps it was a sign of just how far relations have improved between Japan and Russia. Vladimir Putin brought along his pet dog Yume for a reunion meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as both leaders greeted each other warmly and hailed the speed at which relations between their countries were improving - in contrast to Tokyo's strained ties with Beijing.

Yume, a two year-old Akita, was given to Putin by Abe in 2012 as a sign of thanks for Russia's assistance after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in 2011. Her name means "Dream" in Japanese.

Putin stood outside with Yume, when a motorcade carrying the Japanese premier approached the presidential residence. But at first the dog appeared to defy her master's orders, pulling hard on her lead and snarling grumpily at the camera, before calming down.

Abe stroked Yume and said "good dog" in Russian.

"Yes, but she can bite sometimes," Putin replied.

The talks focused mainly on economic co-operation as Putin and Abe decided to leave a controversial territorial dispute over the Kuril islands to experts, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"Since I visited Russia the pace has been very fast. We want to keep up the pace," Abe told a news conference at which he announced Putin's visit to Japan but set no exact date.

Abe, who will also see Putin at a summit of the Group of Eight industrial powers in Sochi in June, came to the Winter Olympics in a show of support for Putin.

Putin responded to Abe's gesture by making clear he was committed to strengthening ties with Tokyo. "We have seen a good environment created that could help resolve the most difficult problem in bilateral relations," he said.

Abe's relationship with Putin stands in marked contrast to Japan's sharply deteriorating ties with China and South Korea, involving spats over tiny, uninhabited islands.

Russia has been strengthening political and energy ties with Beijing, and President Xi Jinping also attended the start of the Games in Sochi, but Moscow is also uneasy about China's rise and is keen to strengthen energy and trade ties in Asia.

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