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Lavrov arrived in Japan on Friday with Russian defence officials for the “two-plus-two” meetings to improve relations still frayed since the end of World War II, and resolve sovereignty issues regarding a series of islands north of Japan’s Hokkaido.
Japan and Russia have since 1945 disputed ownership of the islands which Moscow calls the South Kurils. The issue has been a 58-year stumbling block preventing the two nations from signing a peace treaty.
In recent months, Russia and Japan have stepped up high-level talks between the two sides to find a resolution.
During their meeting in Moscow in late April, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to resume negotiations on a peace treaty.
Abe also met Putin on the sidelines of the G8 Summit on June 17-18 to discuss ties.
“Today, Minister Lavrov and I agreed that our two nations shall hold vice-ministerial level talks in either late January or early February,” Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said at a joint press conference after their meeting.
The two ministers also explored ways to increase defence exchanges, develop common anti-terrorism and anti-piracy strategies, as well as cooperation in areas such as the economy, security – including cyber-security – and people-to-people exchanges.
“The Russia-Japan relationship in recent times has enjoyed a positive atmosphere, allowing us to resume discussions on [the peace treaty],” Lavrov told reporters.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, who accompanied Lavrov on his visit to Tokyo, said that he would raise the issue of the Japan-US missile defence system, which Moscow says is a source of tension in the Asia-Pacific region.
Japan and Russia will resume talks in Moscow next spring.