• Russia, Japan hold diplomatic, defense talks in Tokyo

Russian and Japanese foreign and defense ministers have held "two-plus-two" talks in Tokyo to strengthen regional security and end a decades-long territorial dispute.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida was meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Sunday after Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada sat down for talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu. 

Japan and Russia last held "two-plus-two" talks in November 2013. Meetings were shelved after that due to the crisis in Ukraine, as Japan joined sanctions against Moscow.

The one-day meeting is largely focusing on regional security, especially how best to deal with North Korea's launches of missiles and its nuclear program.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said before the talks that its envoys would raise the issue of a plan by the US and South Korea to deploy a missile system known as THAAD, which has antagonized China and Russia.

Joint efforts in fighting terrorism and drug trafficking were also on the agenda.

The Tokyo talks are not expected to lead to a breakthrough on conflicting claims to islands that came under Russian control after Japan's defeat in World War II.

The islands in the Western Pacific, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuriles in Russia, were seized by Soviet forces at the end of the war and 17,000 Japanese residents were forced to flee.

Despite the differences, the countries see more room for agreement on joint development of fisheries, tourism and other areas that might help bridge the gap.

Kishida said he intended to work in a "speedy manner" to move closer toward reaching a peace treaty, especially making progress on joint economic development.

Lavrov agreed, saying he believed "this joint development will become an important step to create an appropriate environment for resolving a peace treaty."

Japanese officials also said the talks would include work on planning a visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Moscow later this year. Logistics of visits by Japan's former residents of the disputed islands will also be addressed, they said.


Mar 20, 2017 12:48 UTC