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Tokyo ready for talks on Arctic with Nordic, Baltic nations

Kyodo

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday expressed Tokyo’s readiness to closely communicate with Nordic and Baltic countries over its possible involvement in the development of the resource-rich Arctic.

Japan shares with Norway, Estonia and six other European countries the “principles of using resources in a sustainable manner and respecting the rights of indigenous people,” Kishida said during a foreign ministerial meeting in New Delhi, according to a Japanese official.

“We intend to make efforts in the area of environmental protection in particular,” Kishida was quoted as saying.

The first foreign ministerial talks with the group of eight Nordic and Baltic countries came as foreign ministers and other representatives from roughly 50 European and Asian countries gathered in the Indian capital for a two-day foreign ministerial meeting of the Asia-Europe Meeting from Monday.

“It is quite meaningful for North European and Baltic countries, and Japan to communicate their will in one voice on issues for the international community by cooperating with one another,” Kishida also told the meeting.

The Arctic region is believed to hold around 30 percent of the untapped natural gas and 13 percent of the untapped oil in the world. Such resources could be developed as sea ice in the region melts due to global warming.

The other countries represented in the meeting were Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Latvia and Lithuania.

In the same meeting, Kishida also stressed Tokyo’s emphasis on adherence to international law and freedom of navigation in the Arctic, apparently in reference to China’s growing maritime assertiveness, with Beijing also casting its eye on the untapped region.

Another participant told the meeting that the Arctic must be useful for all countries concerned, expressing hope for Japan’s contribution in the region, the Japanese official said.

After visiting Iran over the weekend, Kishida is in India to attend the ASEM meeting through Tuesday. He is due to return to Japan on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Kishida shook hands and spoke briefly with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the meeting, a Japanese delegation source said.

It was the first time that the foreign ministers of the two countries had shaken hands since the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power last December.

It was not clear what Kishida and Wang spoke about during the brief chat, according to the source.

The two men shook hands after they and their peers from Asia and Europe gathered for group photos before the start of talks at the two-day foreign ministerial session of the Asia-Europe Meeting, it said.

Japan-China relations deteriorated following the Japanese government’s effective nationalization of the Senkaku Islands in September 2012.

The uninhabited islets in the East China Sea are controlled by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan, which respectively call the islands Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai.

China has said it will not hold high-level talks with Japan unless it recognizes there is a “territorial dispute” over the islets.

At the ASEM gathering in India, Kishida also spoke with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se. Japan and South Korea remain at odds over history and territorial issues.