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Building closer relations with Russia was undoubtedly one of the main priorities of Japanese foreign policy in 2016. This was made clear by Prime Minister Abe in his New Year press conference that year when he emphasized the importance of holding regular summits with Russia, thereby indicating that he would proceed with plans for the Russian leader to visit Japan in 2016. He reiterated the point a few days later, telling both the Nikkei and Financial Times, “I believe appropriate dialogue with Russia, appropriate dialogue with president Putin is very important.”1 This was a bold step because Russia remained under G7 sanctions and the United States wished to keep the country diplomatically isolated. The move was made even more sensitive by the fact that Japan had just assumed the chairmanship of the G7.

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