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Japan mulls joint administration of disputed Russian-held isles: Nikkei

FILE PHOTO - An aerial view shows Kunashiri Island, one of four islands known as the Southern Kuriles in Russia and Northern Territories in Japan, is seen in this photo taken 2005. REUTERS/Kyodo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan is considering proposing joint administration of disputed islands held by Russia in the hope of unblocking an issue that has bedevilled their relations for 70 years, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Monday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin when they meet on Dec. 15 in Japan to begin negotiations on the proposal, the financial daily said, citing unnamed Japanese and Russian government sources.

The dispute over the four islands off the coast of Hokkaido - which Japan calls its Northern Territories and Russia considers the southern tip of its Kurile chain - has prevented Tokyo and Moscow signing a peace treaty formally ending the war they fought with each other in World War Two.

Japan has long demanded that the sovereignty of all the territories be resolved before a peace treaty is signed, but some politicians and experts have said Abe may alter course.

Japanese officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Last month, Abe told parliament: "I will resolve the territorial issue, end the abnormal situation in which no peace treaty has been concluded even 71 years after the war, and cultivate the major possibility of Japan-Russia cooperation in areas such as the economy and energy."

The newspaper said Tokyo hoped to negotiate a return of the Habomai islets and Shikotan island while adopting joint control of Kunashiri and Etorofu islands.

Japan's position has been to assert its sovereignty over all of the disputed islands, but Russia regularly cites a 1956 joint declaration, never put into effect, that stipulates the return of the Habomai islets and Shikotan to Japan.

(Writing by William Mallard; Editing by Kevin Liffey)