Japan minister: Economic ties will foster trust with Russia

Japan's trade minister says his country's economic relations with Russia have grown more smoothly than political ties, with about 30 joint projects ready to be signed regardless of a breakthrough in territorial issues.

Trade minister Hiroshige Seko said Monday that a final decision on the projects is up to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Japan later this week.

A dispute over the southern Kuril islands, which Japan calls the Northern Territories, has kept the two countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their World War II hostilities.

Although Abe has been pushing for progress, many believe a breakthrough is unlikely during the talks on Thursday and Friday. Seko said closer economic ties that benefit both sides will help foster trust.