Leaders of Russia, China discuss bilateral ties, expressing their friendship

Mikhail Metzel  TASS

Vostok-2018 is taking place at a time of heightened tension between the West and Russian Federation, and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has said it will monitor the exercise closely, as will the United States which has a strong military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.Russia's Ministry of Defence broadcast images on Tuesday of columns of tanks, armoured vehicles and warships on the move, and combat helicopters and fighter aircraft taking off.

But a Japanese government spokesman said Japan's position had not changed and that the issue of sovereignty over the islands needed to be resolved before signing any treaties with Russian Federation.

He reiterated that earlier on Wednesday Russian President Vladimir Putin presented the initiative to sign a peace treaty between Russia and Japan until the end of the year without any preliminary conditions.

Later in the same session, Putin said of his offer: "I was not joking".

Since the mid-20th century, Russian Federation and Japan have been holding consultations in order to clinch a peace treaty as a follow-up to World War II. In the declaration, Moscow agreed to return Shikotan and the Habomais to Tokyo once a formal peace treaty was signed. "Okay", Mr Putin said, before proposing they sign a peace treaty.

After Abe pressed Putin on the subject of a treaty and a solution to the decades-long dispute over a group of islands claimed by both countries, Putin said: "An idea has just come into my head". "Putin does not expect anything", Kunadze told the Echo of Moscow radio station.

Abe praised his meeting with Xi, saying they held "highly significant talks regarding Japan-China relations and the various issues that we face together".

"This stance hasn't changed", he added.

FILE PHOTO: A message board reads messages demanding for the return of a group of islands, called Northern Territories by Japan and Southern Kuriles by Russian Federation, is displayed in Nemuro, in Japan's nothern island of Hokkaido, April 14, 2017.

Both Moscow and Tokyo claim sovereignty over the islands, known in Russian Federation as the Kurile islands and in Japan as the Northern Territories.

Shinzo Abe confirmed Wednesday his plans to visit China this year in what would be the first trip to the country by a Japanese prime minister since 2011, the latest sign of warmer ties between the two rivals.

Lying near the Japanese island of Hokkaido, the territory was taken over by Red Army troops in the final days of World War II.