Japan and Russia have decided to have another stab at forging a peace treaty that will bring World War II to an official end. Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe at the Kremlin yesterday, and the first top-level summit between the countries in about a decade yielded an order for their foreign ministries to come up with a mutually acceptable plan, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The biggest obstacle is the Kurils, four Pacific islands that Russia seized soon after entering the war in August 1945 and are still claimed by Japan.
The issue tends to inflame nationalist sentiments in both countries, but analysts say that with Japan getting a growing share of its energy from Russia, and with both countries seeking to counter China's rise, the time could be ripe for a deal. In 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev offered to give the two southernmost islands back to Japan, but the deal was never finalized. Putin recently said the issue could be settled with a "hiki-wake"—a judo expression for a tie—hinting that he might revive the Khrushchev deal. And the Wall Street Journal reports that the meeting seemed to be a "particularly friendly" one, per some of the officials who accompanied Abe; they each got a photo with Putin, which they described as unusual, and in a live press conference after the summit, Putin reportedly whispered to Abe that he likes Japan. Another tidbit: The group lunched on caviar served from a bowl constructed of ice and opened a bottle of wine from 1855.