Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has proposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the two leaders hold a summit meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meeting in Beijing in November, it has been learned.
Abe made the proposal after Putin said during a 10-minute telephone conversation Sunday evening that he wanted to realise a meeting as soon as possible, officials said. They also discussed the Ukraine situation and agreed to continue bilateral dialogue.
"In essence, the prime minister told [Putin] that it is important to hold dialogue between Japan and Russia by using multilateral meetings, such as APEC," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Monday. He also expressed the hope that a summit meeting will take place on the occasion of the APEC meeting.
The conversation was their first direct communication since they held a summit meeting when Abe attended the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olymics in February.
The telephone talks were requested by Russia, which said Putin wanted to congratulate Abe on his birthday.
A month after the two leaders agreed at their February meeting that Putin would visit Japan in the autumn, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, provoking the ire of the international community.
Russia's isolation deepened as it met condemnation from the United States and European nations for its subsequent intervention in Ukrainian affairs as well as for the suspected involvement of pro-Russia separatists in the downing of a Malaysian Airlines jetliner in July.
Given Japan's priority on joint cooperation with the United States and other Group of Seven industrialized nations, Putin's autumn visit to Japan is not feasible, if not impossible, according to sources.
The government plans to impose additional sanctions against Russia shortly in tandem with moves this month by the United States and the European Union to boost their sanctions against Moscow.