Interview by Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov with Jiji Press news agency, Japan
Question: Why is it important for the dialogue to be resumed in the Two Plus Two format?
Igor Morgulov: I think the answer to your question is obvious. Our two countries as neighbours and important players in the Asia-Pacific Region need a dialogue between foreign and defence ministries on a wide range of issues that have to do with military and political security. And I have to stress that the agreement to resume this particular format is not based on the initiative of one or the other side, but on mutual interest.
I would like to remind you that the Two Plus Two dialogue was set up pursuant to the joint statement of the leaders on the development of partnership of April 29, 2013. That move signalled that the relations between Russia and Japan were gradually moving into a new stage that calls for a higher level of coordination on bilateral as well as regional and global issues. So a more relevant question would be why the dialogue in this format had to be suspended in the first place. But that is another topic.
Question: So the resumption of the dialogue in this format will be the continuation of the first meeting held in 2013, or have those agreements lost their relevance and new approaches and proposals are needed?
Igor Morgulov: Both sides greatly appreciate the results of the first round, which took place in November 2013. We believe that at the time the meeting of the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries helped to strengthen the atmosphere of trust in the Russia-Japan relations. Naturally, we are committed to building on the results of the first round and continuing constructive dialogue in order to deepen mutual understanding.
The situation in the world and in our bilateral relations has changed over the past three and a half years. This has to be taken into account. But the fact remains that the level of interaction between Russia and Japan in the Asia-Pacific Region has a direct bearing on ensuring stability in the region. That is why during the upcoming talks Russia intends to give priority to the affairs of the APR, including the creation of a new regional security and multilateral cooperation architecture.
Question: In early February, Mr Shinzo Abe stressed the importance of conducting a dialogue with Russia in the Two Plus Two format; and earlier, in December 2016, RIA Novosti reported, citing a diplomatic source, that Russia considers the resumption of such a dialogue to be important. Apparently, this format of negotiations suits both countries. Can we expect that it will be more effective?
Igor Morgulov: I think I have partly answered this question. We reaffirm that we are ready for a broad and trust-based dialogue with the Japanese side on topical bilateral, regional and international matters, which have a military and political dimension. We hope Tokyo feels the same way.
Question: What is your take on the current security situation in Northeast Asia? How could Russia and Japan cooperate in preventing the build-up of tensions in the region?
Igor Morgulov: The situation in Northeast Asia gives cause for serious concern. Instability factors, unfortunately, are increasing. We propose to look at the situation in a comprehensive way in order to break the vicious circle of tensions, when in response to North Korean nuclear missile “experiments” the US and its allies step up exercises and other military activities, which in turn prompt Pyongyang to take new defiant actions. Our common goal is to ensure the solution of the problems of the Korean Peninsula by peaceful political and diplomatic means in the context of general military and political deescalation, the creation of a durable peace mechanism that would provide solid security guarantees for all the countries in the region. The upcoming talks will offer us a good opportunity to present our approaches to these issues to our Japanese partners.
Question: What role can Japan play in combating terrorism in cooperation with Russia?
Igor Morgulov: Of late, the dialogue between Russia and Japan on counterterrorism has been developing actively on various levels. The topic is discussed between the heads of the two countries’ security councils, foreign ministries and in the course of corresponding consultations between the foreign ministries. On some aspects, notably the fight against cyberterrorism, we are moving towards closer forms of coordination, for example, we are considering drafting corresponding bilateral documents. We also have successful experience of joint implementation of an anti-drug project in Afghanistan under the UN aegis. All this provides a good basis for expanded interaction in this sphere, which of course meets the interests of both countries.
Question: Japan has expressed concern over the recent reports about the deployment of a Russian Defence Ministry division on the Kuril Islands. Do you think this may influence the Two Plus Two negotiating format?
Igor Morgulov: I would hate to intrude into the territory of my colleagues from the Defence Ministry and comment in detail on the consistent steps our country is taking to strengthen its defence capability. Let me just note the main thing: such measures are a sovereign right of the Russian Federation.
If Tokyo has questions about it, I believe they can be raised during the upcoming Two Plus Two meetings. However, our partners too should be ready to provide explanations on the questions concerning military development of Japan that the Russian side has.