Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, left, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov talk during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, July 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Russia, Japan hope business ties will improve island dispute

July 31, 2018 - 1:31 pm

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian and Japanese officials are expressing hope that business ties between the two countries will help solve a long-standing dispute over four Pacific islands.

The argument centers on the four most southern of the Kuril Islands, which Japan calls the Northern Territories. The Soviet Union took the islands at the end of World War II and the countries never signed a peace treaty as a result.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters Tuesday that Japanese businessmen will soon travel to the islands to develop joint economic projects.

Lavrov also shared Moscow's concerns over Japan's plans to install two U.S. anti-missile systems. Russia fears they could be used for offensive purposes.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera expressed concerns that Russia was increasing its military presence in the four islands.