Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference following Russia-Japan two-plus-two format consultations, Tokyo, March 20, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank our Japanese colleagues for the invitation, their hospitality and meaningful talks.
There is no doubt that reviving the two-plus-two format in keeping with the agreements reached by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe turned out to be quite beneficial. The four ministers focused during their discussion on security issues in the Asia-Pacific Region (APR). We expressed our concern about persisting block-based approaches to dealing with this crucial matter, while joint action is needed to address the current challenges and threats.
We provided a detailed overview of the positions promoted by the Russian Federation together with the People’s Republic of China and other countries as part of the East Asia Summit framework with a view to ensuring security on a non-block basis, in keeping with the principle of indivisible security, without external interference and through multilateral efforts.
We highlighted serious risks associated with the deployment of a US missile defence system in APR. We also articulated Russia’s assessment whereby if this missile defence system is designed to counter threats related to DPRK, it is absolutely redundant, and so are excessive arms supplies to the region.
We and our Japanese partners share the view that North Korea should strictly abide by all UN Security Council resolutions. That said, we believe that sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council against Pyongyang should be regarded not as a punishment but as an impetus to putting the political negotiations back on track.
We also discussed stepping up efforts to fight terrorism and other new challenges and threats, including drug trafficking.
We agreed to continue the Russian-Japanese project implemented within the framework of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to provide counter-narcotics training for police officers in Afghanistan and Central Asian countries.
At the request of our Japanese colleagues we provided detailed information on the efforts made by the Russian Federation to fight the terrorist threat in Syria and promote a peaceful settlement in this country by facilitating talks in Astana and Geneva.
We also exchanged views about the situation in Ukraine. We agreed that there is no alternative to full and comprehensive implementation of the Minsk Agreements. Our Japanese colleagues assured us that in all their contacts with Ukrainian officials they call on Ukraine to implement its part of the commitments.
During a bilateral meeting between foreign ministers we reviewed progress in the implementation of agreements between President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe that were reached in December last year during Vladimir Putin’s visit to Japan. Special attention was given to the efforts by deputy foreign ministers to explore opportunities for joint economic activity in the southern Kuril Islands. We handed over to our Japanese colleagues interagency proposals regarding concrete joint projects. The Japanese colleagues responded by presenting their own ideas. We agreed to submit these proposals to experts to review as soon as possible.
At the instruction of our leaders we are also taking measures to make it easier for Japanese nationals who used to live in the southern Kuril Islands to visit these islands. We also discussed ways to facilitate people-to-people contacts between Japanese and Russian nationals, including the possibility of introducing visa-free travel between the Sakhalin Region and Hokkaido Prefecture.
In conclusion, we agreed to hold the next two-plus-two ministerial meeting in the Russian Federation. Our Japanese colleagues accepted this invitation.
Question: It was the second Russia-Japan two-plus-two format meeting. The first one took place back in 2013. How can the revival of this high-level dialogue contribute to the signing of a peace treaty between our countries?
In November 2016, Russia deployed a surface-to-air missile system on Iturup and Kunashir islands, and announced the deployment of a new division in the Kuril Islands last month during parliamentary hearings. Was this issue raised during the meeting?
Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Fumio Kishida): As you know, the two-plus-two format was not intended to resolve issues related to the peace treaty. Its aim was to enable Russia and Japan to be more effective in ensuring security.
My colleague Foreign Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida was absolutely right to say that efforts to promote dialogue in this format contribute to delivering on the objective set by the leaders of our countries, specifically, to develop deep, friendly ties between Russia and Japan across the board and bring them to a higher level in the interests of the people of Russia and Japan, not any third country.
As President of Russia Vladimir Putin has said on multiple occasions, developing our relations in a comprehensive manner and bringing them to a new level in the interests of the people of Russia and Japan will make it easier for us to come up with effective solutions to any complex issues.
As for the question on whether we provided any explanations regarding actions in any part of the Russian Federation, top government officials of the Russian Federation have commented on this matter on a number of occasions. Since the aspects you have raised in your question have to do with military construction, maybe Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu can add a few words.