Mr. Putin Goes to Japan

Abe’s Chance to Make Peace With Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives at Yamaguchi Ube Airport in Ube, Japan, December 15, 2016. Koji Sasahara / Reuters

Just as U.S. president-elect Donald Trump increasingly appears willing to mend ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, this week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seeking to seal a historic rapprochement with the Russian leader of his own. Ahead of their December 15 meeting in Abe's hometown of Yamaguchi, the Japanese prime minister invited his counterpart to a special winter retreat at one of Japan’s finest hot springs. Abe hoped to leverage the symbolism—Russia has a comparable culture of banya—to consolidate a growing personal bond with Putin and achieve a breakthrough in the frozen bilateral relations during the summit in Tokyo the following day.

In Japan, expectations have grown high that the two sides can finally resolve the lingering issue of the four Kuril Islands, which has impeded bilateral peace talks since the islands were captured from the Japanese by the Soviet Red Army during the final

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