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Japan to seek defense, foreign minister talks with Russia this fall

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will propose to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit this week that their foreign affairs and defense ministers get together this fall, possibly in October, Japanese sources said Saturday.

Scheduled to meet with Putin on Thursday in St. Petersburg during the Group of 20 summit, Abe intends to call for the so-called two-plus-two meeting to be held during a visit to Tokyo by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as a key step toward resolving the long-standing territorial row over islands off Hokkaido, the sources said.

Abe and Putin agreed back in April to hold two-plus-two meetings, but the exact timing was left undecided.

Abe aims to broaden cooperation and deepen mutual trust with Russia in national security as well as the economy and energy as a means to achieving progress in the territorial dispute, with emphasis on strengthening security cooperation.

Also, in view of China’s maritime forays, Abe is expected to seek an acceleration of military exchanges with Russia, the sources said.

Abe and Putin agreed during their meeting in April to expand exchanges between the Self-Defense Forces and the Russian military, and enhance bilateral cooperation against terrorism and piracy.

On the territorial dispute, Abe and Putin are expected to reaffirm their willingness to promote talks as their deputy foreign ministers effectively resumed negotiations Aug. 19.

The dispute over the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido — Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group — that were seized by the Soviet Union following Japan’s surrender in World War II has prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty.

Abe is scheduled to visit Russia for two days starting Wednesday.

Japan has long held two-plus-two meetings with the United States and more recently has reached deals to hold them with Australia and France.