• Kyodo

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Japan joined the other members of the Group of Seven advanced nations on Tuesday in agreeing that Russia was probably behind a nerve agent attack in Britain last month, after having refused for weeks to assign blame.

In a statement released on Tuesday Japan time, the G-7 foreign ministers endorsed Britain’s finding that “there is no plausible alternative explanation” other than Russia’s responsibility for the attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury on March 4.

Since the attack, the Japanese government has not joined the rest of the G-7 but merely condemned the use of chemical weapons without pointing the finger at Russia, with which it is trying to make progress on a decades-long territorial row.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono said later Tuesday in Tokyo that Japan continues to hope for the full facts of the incident to come to light through further investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and by the British police.

“Although there is no smoking gun showing that Russia used (chemical weapons), the G-7 agrees with Britain’s assertion that it is highly likely to have done so, that there is no other rational explanation, and that the international community needs to engage with Russia (on the issue) in a constructive way,” Kono said.

Kono said Japan has “no intention at this time” to follow other G-7 members in expelling Russian diplomats over the incident.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to visit Russia next month for talks with President Vladimir Putin, aiming to make progress on the issue of the sovereignty of a chain of Russia-held, Japan-claimed islands off Hokkaido that were seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II.

Canada is the current chair of the G-7, which also includes Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the United States, as well as the European Union.

The group’s foreign ministers will meet in Toronto from Sunday for their annual gathering.