TOKYO, March 20. /TASS/. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov plan to discuss issues related to North Korea and the situation on the Korean Peninsula. The Japanese top diplomat made this announcement while opening talks with Lavrov.
"I expect that during today’s two-plus-two meeting we will discuss regional security issues, particularly North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs," Kishida said.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula rose in early 2016, when Pyongyang conducted an underground nuclear test and later test-fired a ballistic missile. In September 2016, North Korea conducted another nuclear test, besides, within one year, around 20 missiles were test-fired. On March 6, 2017, North Korea test-fired four ballistic missiles which fell in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. On March 7, the US Pacific Command announced that the United States had started to deploy the THAAD missile systems to South Korea despite the opposition of Russia and China.
The United Nations Security Council toughens sanctions against North Korea in response to the implementation of its missile and nuclear programs. However, Pyongyang does not recognize the UN Security Council’s resolutions and statements citing the country’s right to beef up its defensive capability taking into account Washington’s aggressive policy, particularly joint drills carried out by the US and South Korea.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to visit Russia as soon as possible in 2017, Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said.
"Taking into consideration the possibility of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s early visit to Russia this year, I expect that we will have a meaningful conversation on a wide range of issues today," he said.
Russia and Japan have recently stepped up dialogue. In 2016, the Japanese prime minister visited Russia twice: in May he met with Putin in Russia’s southern city of Sochi while in September he participated in the Eastern Economic Forum held in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Vladivostok. On January 25, the Russian presidential spokesman said that in 2017, Abe planned to visit Russia twice, particularly intending to take part in the next Eastern Economic Forum.
In December 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Japan and held talks with Abe. The parties exchanged views on the peace treaty issue and economic projects. In addition, the two countries’ strategic partnership was also discussed. In particular, the two leaders highlighted the importance of resuming previously frozen ties, including the two-plus-two meetings involving foreign and defense ministers.
Kishida has also expressed readiness to discuss joint economic activities on the South Kuril Islands with Sergey Lavrov.
"In order to make a step towards signing a peace treaty, and taking into account the recent consultations on this issue that were held in Tokyo, I expect that we will discuss joint economic activities," Kishida said opening talks with Lavrov. He added that since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Japan in December 2016, the parties had been taking active steps to develop bilateral relations while his current meeting with Lavrov was their second one in 2017.
The first round of consultations on joint economic activities on the South Kuril Islands, involving Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and his Japanese counterpart Takeo Akiba, was held on March 18 in Tokyo. After the consultations, Japan said that the parties had put forward specific plans for cooperation in tourism industry, healthcare and fishery. According to Akiba, the parties also agreed to discuss the opportunity to arrange charter flights so that former residents of the islands could visit them.
On December 15-16, 2016, during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Japan and his talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a joint statement was adopted saying that consultations on joint economic activities on the South Kuril Islands could become an important step on the way to a peace treaty. Besides, the two countries believe that this statement and all agreements concerning joint economic activities that could be based on it, will not damage the positions of Russia and Japan concerning the peace treaty issue.