By Kiyoshi Takenaka
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Russia next month for a summit with President Vladimir Putin, his foreign minister said on Monday, with an aim of advancing his effort to end a territorial spat and conclude a peace treaty.
Abe has pledged to resolve the territorial dispute over a string of western Pacific islands, seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War Two, in the hope of leaving diplomatic legacy and building better ties to counter a rising China.
The feud has precluded a formal peace treaty between the two countries.
Speaking to a joint news conference after talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and a separate meeting among foreign and defense ministers from Japan and Russia, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said: “We’ve agreed to accelerate preparation for the summit meeting.”
During Putin’s visit to Japan last December, the two countries agreed to resume so-called “two-plus-two” security dialogue among foreign and defense ministers, suspended after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014.
“I believe the resumption of dialogue in the two-plus-two format means lifting Russo-Japanese relations to a new level … and expanding security cooperation regarding global and regional security,” Lavrov said at the outset of the security meeting.
The two sides agreed to demand North Korea, which has carried out a series of nuclear and missile tests in defiance of UN sanctions, halt such actions, Kishida said.
“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 U.N. Security Council resolutions,” he said.
North Korea’s official media said on Sunday the reclusive state had tested a new high-thrust engine, which an analyst said was a dangerous step toward the North’s goal of developing a rocket that could hit the United States.
Lavrov told the security meeting that UN sanctions against North Korea should be aimed not at punishing Pyongyang but at prompting the North to go back to dialogue with the international community, he said at the joint news conference.
Lavrov also said he had told the security dialogue that the U.S. deployment of ballistic missile defense system is posing a serious risk to Asia-Pacific, and the scale of the deployment is disproportionate to a threat from North Korean missiles.
The United States this month started to deploy its advanced anti-missile defense system, called the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD), in South Korea in response to the threat from North Korean missiles.
China and Russia worry that the system’s powerful radar can penetrate their territory and undermine their security.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Nick Macfie and Clarence Fernandez)