(CNN)Russian President Vladimir Putin touched down in the home province of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday afternoon, local time, for his first official visit to the country in 11 years.
Economic and security issues will be at the forefront of talks between the two leaders, as Japan looks to shore up a weak economy and Russia turns to the east to avoid US and European sanctions.
Putin had originally been planning to arrive just after 2 p.m., local time, but his flight was delayed for more than an hour.
Speaking ahead of his first meeting with Abe, Putin said the summit talks would help improve bilateral ties between Russia and Japan, according to CNN-affiliate NHK.
He will be staying in Japan for less than two days, including one night in Abe’s hometown of Yamaguchi before traveling to Tokyo on Friday.
Former US diplomat and adjunct senior fellow at the RAND think tank in Washington, William Courtney, told CNN Putin’s visit to Japan was sending a message to the United States.
“Russia hopes to weaken support for US military basing and deployments, and to undermine public support in Japan for increasing military preparedness,” he said.
But Putin isn’t the only world leader wooing Japan — his rare visit comes less than a month after Abe became the first world leader to meet with US President-elect Donald Trump.
Trump and Abe had a “very candid discussion” in New York on November 17, according to the Japanese prime minister, during what he described as an “unofficial” meeting.
“I am very honored to see the President-elect ahead of other world leaders,” Abe told reporters after the discussion. “The Japan-US alliance is the axis of Japan’s diplomacy and security. The alliance becomes alive only when there is trust between us. I would like to build such a trust with Mr Trump.”