Japan, Russia hold dialogue amid island row

2nd March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Japanese and Russian senior officials met on Wednesday to discuss ties strained by a row over a disputed island chain that has been unresolved since World War II.

The meeting came a day after Russia's Interfax news agency reported Moscow was planning to deploy additional weaponry including anti-ship cruise missiles and air defences on the disputed southern Kuril islands.

While the diplomats met, Japan's top government spokesman Yukio Edano, asked at a press conference about the report, said: "We are of course watching Russian military activities in the Far East".

"When Foreign Minister (Seiji) Maehara visited Russia, he said that we should promote defence exchanges and communications and that we should avoid an unnecessary arms race in the Asia-Pacific region."

The islets, called the Northern Territories by Japan, were seized by Soviet troops in the days after Japan's surrender in World War II, and the row has prevented both sides from signing a peace treaty since.

The dispute has flared up since November when President Dmitry Medvedev paid an unexpected visit to one of the four islands, followed by a series of trips there by other top Kremlin officials.

Tokyo and Moscow have since been engaged in a heated war of words that continued during a tense February 11 exchange in Moscow between Maehara and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

Kenichiro Sasae, Japan's deputy minister for foreign affairs, held the half-day "strategic dialogue" in Tokyo with Andrei Denisov, the Russian first vice-minister for foreign affairs.

The talk, the eighth of its kind since 2007, focused on bilateral issues as well as international problems of mutual interest, such as nuclear developments by North Korea and Iran, said the Japanese foreign ministry.

© 2011 AFP

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