Russian President Vladimir Putin said a solution with Japan had to be found to allow the two countries to conclude a World War II peace treaty which would reflect the interests of both.
Putin had welcomed Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Moscow on Saturday after meeting in Saint Petersburg for the economic forum, which Abe attended as a guest of honor. "Yesterday we discussed the advancement of economic and commercial ties" Putin said Saturday.
Speaking after their meeting, Abe said they had agreed to speed up joint commercial activity to include health care, energy and urban development on the disputed chain of islands seized by Moscow at the end of World War II.
The Japanese premier said he also hoped for a "new breakthrough" in settling the dispute that has festered for decades.
"We are already advancing work on collaborative agricultural activities on four islands and humanitarian measures for former inhabitants of the islands," Abe said. "Solving (the dispute) is not easy but we would like to end it within the lifetime of our generation."
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had sparked outrage in Japan when he visited the disputed territory in 2015. After meeting Abe, Putin said on Saturday that a Japanese business delegation would visit the islands this year.
The two sides have already agreed to cultural exchanges, and Putin said Moscow's heralded Bolshoi Theater would mark the new program on Saturday night.
"We have observed rising trade and investments, but what's most important is the interest of both countries to develop relations," Putin said.
Denuclearization of North Korea
Russia has relatively close diplomatic relations with North Korea.
Abe said "Russia and Japan will maintain close contacts so that North Korea goes in the right direction." The Japanese premier said: "The most important (thing) is for North Korea to carry out full and irreversible denuclearization."
Putin called on all sides involved in the situation around North Korea to show restraint.
bik/jm (AFP, dpa)