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6. Japan, Russia to begin surveys of disputed islands

Officials from Japan and Russia are holding final negotiations on starting joint surveys of 4 disputed islands next month.

The officials are trying to flesh out a proposal for shared economic activity on the 4 Russian-held islands claimed by Japan.

The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory. It says the islands were illegally occupied after World War II.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the proposal during a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in December in an attempt to resolve the territorial dispute.

Officials from both countries held the first round of talks last month to discuss what kind of projects could be jointly carried out in the territories. They will use the results of the surveys to select the projects.

The 2 governments are also discussing ways to allow aging former Japanese residents of the islands to visit the territories more freely and easily.

They plan to allow former islanders to complete entry procedures on the Habomai Islands, in addition to Kunashiri. They will also arrange flights for them.

The 2 governments hope that Abe and Putin will agree to the joint surveys in their summit in Moscow on Thursday.

Governments and companies of the 2 nations are also expected to sign about 30 documents for an economic cooperation plan presented by Tokyo last year. These cover the fields of medicine, energy, and exchanges.
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