TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan made an impassioned plea on Saturday to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for their two countries to resolve a dispute over a group of islands that has been a sore point in their relations since the end of World War II.
During a panel discussion in the Russian city of Vladivostok, at which Mr. Abe appeared with Mr. Putin and President Park Geun-hye of South Korea, Mr. Abe called for an “end to the unnatural state of affairs that has continued these 70 years.” Because of the territorial conflict over the islands, which were occupied by Soviet troops after Japan surrendered in 1945, Japan and Russia never signed a formal peace treaty after the war.
The panel featuring the three leaders was part of the Eastern Economic Forum, an investment conference sponsored by the Russian government to encourage foreign companies to develop business partnerships in Russia’s far east, whose port city of Vladivostok is much closer to either Seoul or Tokyo than to Moscow. All three countries have their own reasons for seeking closer economic ties with each other, including a mutual desire to find counterweights to a rising China in Asia.
Although Mr. Abe and Mr. Putin had held a bilateral meeting on Friday to discuss negotiations over the disputed islands — which Russia calls the southern Kurile Islands and Japan calls the Northern Territories — Mr. Abe took the opportunity while sharing the stage with the Russian president to address him directly.
“Vladimir, shall our generation not be the one to have the courage to fulfill our responsibilities?” Mr. Abe said. “Shall our two countries, Japan and Russia, not overcome all manner of difficulties to leave to the young people of the next generation a world that makes those possibilities come into full bloom?”
Mr. Putin replied that it would be difficult, though possible, to find a solution. “We need to create a situation where neither side feels like a loser or feels infringed or impinged in the process,” he said. In an earlier interview with Bloomberg News, Mr. Putin had said, “We’re not talking about some exchange or some sale,” whereby increased Japanese economic investment would yield a return of the islands to Tokyo’s control.
Both leaders have previously signaled a willingness to compromise on the issue in order to conclude a peace treaty, but so far there has been no official progress. Talks between the two may resume in December, when Mr. Putin is scheduled to visit Mr. Abe’s home prefecture of Yamaguchi, Japan.
During the panel discussion, Ms. Park called for Russia’s continued support in enforcing a United Nations resolution to prevent North Korea from developing a full-scale nuclear weapons program.
Mr. Putin said he supported the goal of stopping nuclear proliferation, but added that “we should be very careful here so that we should not provoke the leadership of North Korea to take some actions in order to defend what they feel is their national security.”