Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Russia late next month for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida said yesterday.
Abe has pledged to resolve a decades-old territorial dispute with Russia over a string of western Pacific islands, seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II, in the hope of building better ties to counter a rising China.
The feud has precluded a formal peace treaty between the two countries.
Japanese and Russian officials both expressed hope that discussions on joint development of islands claimed by both countries might help them move closer to resolving the territorial.
Talking to reporters after a one-day security meeting between the foreign and defense ministers of Japan and Russia, Kishida also said the two sides had agreed to demand that North Korea, which has carried out a series of nuclear and missile tests in defiance of UN sanctions, halt such actions.
“We had in-depth talks today over North Korea’s nuclear and missile issues and agreed to demand strongly that North Korea refrain from further provocations and observe UN Security Council resolutions,” Kishida said.
The talks were the first “two-plus-two” meeting since Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, as Japan joined sanctions against Moscow. The last such meeting was in November 2013.
Kishida met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, while Japanese Minister of Defense Tomomi Inada sat down for talks with her counterpart, Sergei Shoigu. The four also held joint talks on international and bilateral issues
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said before the talks that its envoys would raise the issue of a plan by the US and South Korea to deploy a state-of-the-art missile defense system known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, which has antagonized China and Russia.
The Tokyo talks were not expected to lead to a breakthrough on conflicting claims to islands north of Hokkaido — Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islets — that came under Russian control after Japan’s defeat in World War II.
However, the two 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.
Earlier, a Japanese foreign ministry official said Tokyo would raise concerns over Russia’s installment of surface-to-ship missiles on Etorofu and other military activity elsewhere on the disputed islands, and seek an explanation from Moscow.
It does not plan to push harder than that, said the official, who briefed reporters on the condition he not be named.