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Japan avoids criticizing Russia over Ukraine issue

Tokyo, Nov. 27 (Jiji Press) — The Japanese government refrains from criticizing Russia over the recent firing on and seizure of Ukrainian naval ships by Russian coast guard vessels, ahead of the start of full-fledged territorial negotiations with the Russian government.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kotaro Nogami said, “We hope that all the parties involved will exercise self-restraint and the situation will calm down.” He stopped short of naming Russia.

The government holds the stance of opposing any attempts to change the status quo by force and places emphasis on freedom of navigation. But as for the latest incident, which is highly likely to raise tensions between Russia and Ukraine, Nogami only referred to the importance of watching developments and concerns over a possible deterioration in the Ukrainian situation.

Amid the United States and European countries stepping up criticism against Russia, a senior Foreign Ministry official admitted that the Russian acts represent an attempt to change the status quo by force.

Meanwhile, another senior government official showed reluctance for Japan to become involved in the problem, saying it is a faraway issue for the country.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin are slated to hold talks on the sidelines of the two-day summit of the Group of 20 advanced and emerging economies in Buenos Aires from Friday.

The two leaders agreed at a summit meeting in Singapore earlier this month to accelerate bilateral talks on a World War II peace treaty based on the 1956 Japan-Soviet joint declaration, which calls for the return of the Habomais and Shikotan, two of the four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, to Japan after the conclusion of the peace treaty.

The upcoming Abe-Putin talks will be held based on the Singapore agreement.

As Abe is determined to maintain a good relationship with Putin, the Ukraine problem would have no impact on the Japan-Russia territorial negotiations, a government source said.

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