Russian Foreign Minister plans visit to Japan in coming months

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov plans to visit Japan in the coming months, with the trip program already being discussed with Tokyo.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow on Friday, Russia’s top diplomat expressed his desire to advance relations with Japan, saying a visit he had planned to make last year had been postponed due to the change of power in the Japanese government.

“The visit will definitely take place,” Lavrov said.

But Lavrov remained firm in his stance on a disputed group of islands off Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island, saying they are “Russia’s indivisible territory”.

The dispute over the sovereignty of the islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuril Islands in Russia, has posed a major obstacle to countries signing a peace treaty in the more than 70 years since the end of World War II. .

Tokyo claims the Soviet Union seized the islands illegally shortly after Japan’s surrender in August 1945, while Moscow argues it did so legitimately.

Regarding the peace treaty negotiations, Lavrov stressed that since such a document would now be signed in the 21st century, it should demonstrate more than signal the end of the war, and pave the way for the development of future Japanese-Russian relations.

He expressed support for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policy of signing a peace treaty before starting talks on the remaining issues, and said Russia had provided a draft text to Japan.

But Lavrov also expressed concern that Japan’s status as a US ally is proving to be an obstacle to bilateral relations between Tokyo and Moscow, adding that if US missile defense systems were deployed in Japan, it would be seen as a threat to his country.

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