• Kyodo

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Newly appointed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has warned Japan against insisting that disputed Russian-held islands be handed to Japan before the conclusion of a bilateral peace treaty.

“We will deal with it on the basis of the Constitution,” Lavrov told an inaugural media conference Wednesday, tacitly reminding Japan that Russia needs to address the territorial preservation and integrity stipulated under the Constitution.

Lavrov said he will step up efforts toward concluding a peace treaty.

“The relations with Japan are progressing,” he said. “Both nations have a desire to conclude a peace treaty under an agreement between their leaders.”

The dispute, involving four islands off Hokkaido, has prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty. The islands were seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II.

Lavrov said he intends to seek a political resolution to the prolonged conflict over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions through the six-way talks that also involve China, Japan, North and South Korea, and the United States.

As a former Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Lavrov said he is committed to focusing on the U.N.’s role in resolving regional conflicts and fighting terrorism.

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