Japan and Russia Agree on Navy Cooperation in Bid to Build Trust

Japan’s and Russia’s foreign and defense ministers today agreed their navies should train together, in a sign of warmer ties between the neighbors who have yet to sign a World War II peace treaty.

The ministers agreed Russia’s navy and Japan’s Marine Self-Defense Force should take part in joint anti-piracy and anti-terrorism training, the Japanese government said in a document released after a meeting in Tokyo.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has improved ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin since taking office in December, with the nations holding four bilateral summit meetings in the space of six months. In the same period Japan has had no such meetings with China or South Korea, amid separate territorial disputes with those countries. Abe’s visit to Russia in April was the first by a Japanese premier in almost a decade.

“Cooperating in the field of security is necessary to raise the overall level of the relationship between Japan and Russia,” Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters after today’s meeting with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and the defense ministers of the two countries, Itsunori Onodera and Sergei Shoigu.

Kishida said he hoped the gathering would help build trust and have a positive effect on negotiations toward a peace treaty.

Island Dispute

Japan’s relationship with Russia has been hampered by their rival claims to a group of islands north of Hokkaido seized by the then Soviet Union in the final days of the war. The islands are known as the Northern Territories in Japan and Southern Kurils in Russia. Kishida and Lavrov agreed last night to hold a further round of negotiations toward a peace treaty at administrative vice minister level in late January or February, according to an e-mailed statement from Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Risks to stability in the Asia-Pacific include potential conflict over territory, Lavrov told reporters today, adding that closer cooperation was required to dispel any such risks.

Russia expressed concerns in the meeting about Japan’s participation in a U.S.-led ballistic missile defense system and called for further talks on the issue, Shoigu told reporters.

Russia is the third country to hold combined foreign and defense minister meetings with Japan, following the U.S. and Australia. Russia holds similar meetings with four other countries.

To contact the reporter on this story: Isabel Reynolds in Tokyo at ireynolds1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net

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