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Japan and Russia are expected to agree at a ministerial meeting Saturday to expand joint exercises between their defense forces and advance their cooperation in multilateral consultative frameworks that deal with security affairs in the Asia-Pacific region.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera of Japan and their Russian counterparts Sergey Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu met in Tokyo in the morning for the so-called "two-plus-two" meeting on security, the first such meeting between the two countries.
The meeting is aimed at further building confidence between Japan and Russia as Tokyo seeks to prepare the ground for making progress in negotiations to resolve a long-running territorial dispute that has prevented the two countries from signing a post-World War II peace treaty.
The ministers are also expected to compare notes on issues surrounding East Asian security, including North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
In his opening remarks at the talks, Kishida said Saturday's meeting has opened a "new page for Japan-Russia cooperation in security and defense," noting that deepening such cooperation will contribute to regional peace and stability.
Lavrov said Japanese and Russian leaders are aiming to strengthen confidence and expand cooperation in regional and global issues, while Shoigu said that through mutual efforts, Japan and Russia can raise their mutual understanding of new threats, such as international terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to a "new level."
The Japanese side is envisioning the expansion of joint exercises between the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Russian navy, and bilateral cooperation in multilateral settings, such as the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum, in discussing security and disaster relief.
The Japanese side also plans to seek understanding from the Russian side about Tokyo's security policy, including the proposed establishment of a U.S.-style National Security Council and moves within the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe toward allowing Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense.
In addition, the Japanese and Russian ministers are expected to discuss the antiballistic missile shield jointly developed by Japan and the United States, a missile defense system that has drawn particular attention from Russia.
During a foreign ministerial meeting on Friday, Kishida and Lavrov agreed to hold talks between deputy foreign ministers sometime between the end of January and the beginning of February to discuss the territorial dispute.
The two ministers also discussed what themes should be on the agenda between their deputies during the second round of negotiations, which would follow the first round held in Moscow in August. Tokyo expects the upcoming round to be held in Japan.
In April, Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to resume stalled negotiations over the sovereignty of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan islands and the Habomai islet group off Japan's northernmost main island Hokkaido.
The Russian-held islands were seized by the Soviet Union days after Japan's surrender in 1945 that ended World War II.
Japan also has two-plus-two ministerial arrangements with the United States and Australia, with an agreement to launch one with France. Russia has held similar two-plus-two talks with the United States, Britain, France and Italy.
Lavrov and Shoigu, who arrived in Tokyo on Friday, are expected to leave the capital later on Saturday after having working lunch with their Japanese counterparts.
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