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Japan, Russia hold talks expected to touch on territorial standoff, seen as counter to China

Japan and Russia will hold high-level talks in Tokyo that are expected to focus on security cooperation and a territorial dispute that has kept the nations from signing a peace treaty.

Preliminary meetings were planned for late Friday. The main discussions between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Chief Itsunori Onodera were scheduled for Saturday.

Russia has been expanding its trade ties in Asia and President Vladimir Putin has actively sought closer relations with Japan, partly as a counter for China's rising military power.

It is unclear how much progress has been made toward a compromise on the dispute over four islands that were captured by Soviet forces at the end of World War II.

Russia's Itar-Tass news agency downplayed the likelihood of any major breakthroughs on the issue, noting that the main gist of the dispute is being handled by deputy foreign ministers.

The two sides have also stepped up cooperation on developing energy resources, especially liquefied natural gas, and other trade in the Russian Far East.