Fumio Kishida says Russia key to resolving Syria, North Korean issues

AP, Kyodo

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to continue talks with Russia even though the two countries still lack a World War II peace treaty, saying Moscow is key to resolving international threats from Syria and North Korea.

Kishida on Tuesday also announced $350 million in new aid to help stabilize Syria and its neighboring countries amid the region’s massive refugee crisis, following $810 million in earlier humanitarian support.

Kishida said in a speech on Japanese foreign policy for 2016 that diplomatic dialogue between Japan and Russia is indispensable even though the territorial dispute has prevented them from technically ending their World War II hostilities. He said the two sides are seeking to hold a summit this year.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might visit Russia in April for talks with President Vladimir Putin ahead of a Group of Seven summit in Mie Prefecture in May.

“The international community is faced with challenges involving Syria and North Korea, and Russia’s constructive role is essential in resolving the problems,” Kishida said. “In that context, political dialogue, especially at a political level, is indispensable and essential.”

As to other diplomatic relations, Kishida said he may visit China in the spring for talks with his counterpart, Wang Yi.

“I would like to move forward bilateral ties through dialogue” with Wang, Kishida said. “We need to establish a stable relationship not only in the political sphere but in a wide area.”

Kishida is eager to hold talks with Wang as the countries are set to resume high-level economic dialogue, possibly in March, for the first time since August 2010, diplomatic sources said.

Abe and Premier Li Keqiang agreed to resume the ministerial-level economic dialogue at an early date in 2016 during talks in Seoul in November.

Abe and Li also agreed in their first one-on-one meeting to restart reciprocal visits by their foreign ministers.

The summit between the Japanese and Chinese leaders, as well as a trilateral meeting including South Korean President Park Geun-hye, were seen as signs of a thaw in relations between Japan and its neighbors, which are often beset by disagreements over history and territory.

Kishida added he hopes to convene a foreign ministerial meeting of Japan, South Korea and China at “an early date.”