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Japan alarmed by Russia’s hard line on Northern Territories

All papers carried follow-up reports on the Japan-Russia foreign ministerial meeting held in Moscow on Monday, highlighting the tough stance on the Northern Territories dispute taken by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, who underscored that Tokyo must first acknowledge Moscow’s sovereignty over the contested islands. Mainichi wrote that although the GOJ was alarmed by Lavrov’s hard line, it is inclined to take a low-key approach so as not to deepen distrust of Japan among Russians, who are increasingly critical of Japan’s call for the return of the islands. Sankei said Tokyo is aiming to elicit flexibility from Russia in the coming negotiations by offering economic assistance as an incentive. As a deep schism was exposed between Lavrov and Foreign Minister Kono, Asahi forecast that the prospects for bilateral talks on a peace treaty and the territorial row will be influenced by the summit between Prime Minister Abe and President Putin to be held in the Russian capital on Jan. 22. Noting that Lavrov expressed concern over the possibility of U.S. troops being deployed to the Northern Territories should they be returned to Japan, Yomiuri wrote that Japan will coordinate closely with the USG on this matter so as to prevent the Japan-Russia peace treaty negotiations from having adverse effects on the trans-Pacific alliance.       

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