Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had been seeking closer ties with Russia to resolve a territorial dispute, and President Donald Trump has given him his blessing.
"President Trump understands Japan’s [policy] to promote dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin to resolve the territorial issue," Abe said after his return from the U.S. where he met with Trump, reported the Japan Times.
Since World War II, Japan and Russia have disagreed over control of a few small islands that lie between the Japanese island of Hokkaido and Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula.
Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in December 2016 to discuss the long-standing dispute. Although the two leaders agreed on further economic cooperation between their countries, the debate over custody of the islands ended in a stalemate, reported The New York Times.
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Trump's seal of approval on Japan's outreach to Russia marks a significant departure from the foreign policy of the previous administration under former President Barack Obama.
According to the Japan Times, Obama wasn't as enthusiastic about Abe's desire for warmer relations between Japans and Russia.
Trump has said he hopes for better relations between the U.S. and Russia, so his endorsement of the same between Japan and Russia shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Abe also stated that Trump was becoming "gradually" more open to the idea of a renegotiating the Trans-Pacific-Partnership after their meeting in South Florida, despite having made it a major object of criticism during his campaign and signing an executive order to kill the deal as soon as he took office.
Abe also expressed his belief that Trump would take a tougher stance on North Korea, often described as a major threat to Japan's national security.
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"The Obama administration was cautious about using military power," Abe said. "[But] Mr. Trump has various options on the cards. He thinks he wants to resolve the issue diplomatically."