• Kyodo

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Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi arrived Saturday in Vladivostok, in the Russian Far East, for talks with top officials on enhancing ties between Japan and the region.

The officials she is scheduled to meet include Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko.

Kawaguchi, who departed from Tokyo’s Haneda airport earlier in the day, is scheduled to hold talks with Khristenko on Sunday to exchange views on a route for a planned oil pipeline in eastern Siberia.

Japan and China have been lobbying for separate routes to get better access to Russian oil.

Kawaguchi and Khristenko are also expected to discuss bilateral energy cooperation in the region to help promote development of the Far East.

Japan hopes its cooperation will help resolve the long-standing territorial dispute over islands off Hokkaido, as Russian President Vladimir Putin places increasing importance on developing the region to ensure balanced economic growth throughout Russia.

Japan and Russia have not signed a peace treaty since the end of World War II due to the territorial row.

On Saturday, Kawaguchi visited a site where decommissioned Russian nuclear submarines are being dismantled. An agreement was signed between Japan and Russia to speed up the dismantling operation, with Japan pledging 800 million yen in financial assistance.

Later in the day, Kawaguchi held a series of meetings with Russian officials, including Konstantin Pulikovskii, an aide to Putin. Pulikovskii has close ties with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

On the question of Pyongyang’s nuclear arms program, Pulikovskii said the ongoing three-way talks among the U.S., China and North Korea have not produced any results, adding that he supports a proposal to include Japan, South Korea and Russia in the dialogue, Japanese officials said.

Kawaguchi underscored Japan’s desire for a peaceful solution to North Korea’s nuclear standoff, the officials said.

On Sunday, Kawaguchi will give a speech on Japan’s political and economic relations with the Russian Far East. She is expected to express Japan’s willingness to promote cooperation in energy development and enhance economic exchanges with the region.

Kawaguchi’s visit follows one by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in January.

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