[JURIST] No formal peace treaty will be concluded between Japan and Russia until Russia relinquishes control of several Japanese islands it has occupied since the end of World War II, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe [official website] told a rally on Wednesday. Possession of the island chain, known as the Kurils Islands in Russia and the Northern Territories [Japan MOFA materials] in Japan, was first transferred from Russia to Japan in 1855 under a friendship treaty. It remained under Japanese control until Russian troops seized the islands during the last days of World War II, an act in violation of the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact [text], signed by both nations on April 13, 1941. The dispute over the islands' control has led to the absence of a formal peace treaty [JURIST report] ending World War II hostilities between Japan and Russia.
Abe and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin discussed the return of the islands [Kyodo News report] during an economic summit last year. AP has more.