Toward the end of the war, the then-Soviet Union attacked the islands. At that time, it had a neutrality pact with Japan. Despite that, it occupied the islands in less than a month.
About 17,000 Japanese nationals were living there but when Joseph Stalin annexed the islands he deported them all.
In 1956, the 2 countries finally ended the state of war. The Soviet leaders agreed to hand over some islands after concluding a peace treaty.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has continued to control the islands. Leaders on both sides made various attempts to settle the issue but they couldn't reach an agreement.
In that time, thousands of Russians settled the islands and developed towns.
Prime Minister Abe and President Vladimir Putin agreed in 2013 to resume talks on a peace treaty and draw up solutions acceptable for both sides.
"It was a big achievement that we agreed to restart and accelerate our talks," Abe said.
"We hope to further our ties in many fields including the energy sector," Putin said.
But the Russian government took a hard line stance in 2014. Japan joined Western countries in sanctioning Russia for its annexation of Crimea.
Russian officials started to openly claim the Northern Territories had become part of their country as a consequence of the war. The Japanese government maintains the claim is unacceptable.
Prime Minister Abe says the issue can only be resolved through dialogue between leaders.
"Japan will advance the negotiations based on a new approach," Abe said.
This is Abe's 14th face-to-face talk with Putin.