Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda and Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov agreed May 16 to push a regional security forum in the Asia-Pacific region to help maintain stability, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Rodionov told Ikeda that Russia intends to build confidence with countries in the region on a bilateral basis before establishing a multilateral security framework, according to the officials.

Ikeda said he thinks establishing a regional security mechanism with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States taking part would be possible, the officials said.

In a related matter, Rodionov told Ikeda that Russia feels Japan’s security partnership with the U.S. does not pose a threat to a third country, the officials said.

The Russian defense minister also said the relationship between Russia and the U.S. has improved dramatically over a short period of time and that he wants to make efforts to improve Russia’s relations with Japan, according to the officials.

Meanwhile, Ikeda told Rodionov that the bilateral relationship between Japan and Russia should be improved based on the 1993 Japan-Russia Tokyo Declaration, which recognizes the existence of a bilateral territorial dispute, the ministry officials said.

Leaders of the two countries have reaffirmed the declaration, but meaningful progress on the territorial issue has not been achieved.

The two countries are currently discussing whether they will jointly develop disputed islands off Hokkaido. The idea of joint development was proposed by Russia in November.

Ikeda also told Rodionov that Japan will continue to support Russia’s reform efforts, the officials said.

Ikeda also said that Tokyo is willing to promote cooperation in a variety of fields, including defense exchanges, they said.

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