All national papers highlighted a Japan-Russia foreign ministerial meeting in Moscow on Thursday at which Foreign Minister Motegi and his counterpart Lavrov discussed the Northern Territories dispute for the purpose of concluding a bilateral peace treaty. The two officials, however, failed to forge any concrete agreement on peace treaty talks other than deciding to meet again in Germany in February on the margins of the annual Munich Security Conference. The two ministers confirmed that Japan and Russia will promote “joint economic activities” on the Northern Territories. Lower-ranking officials are expected to hold talks next month to check on the progress of the activities. The Japanese official called for the swift release of five Japanese trawlers and their crews that were seized by the Russian border authorities near the contested islands on Tuesday. Lavrov called for Japan to regulate its fishery operations in the vicinity properly.
In a joint press conference afterward, Motegi said the two nations are committed to continuing consultations for a “mutually-acceptable solution” to the territorial dispute. Lavrov suggested at the same press event that Moscow will continue to address U.S. moves to deploy mid-range ballistic missiles in Asia in its bilateral talks with Tokyo by saying: “We have no choice but to address moves to build a U.S.-led missile defense network that includes Japan.”
In a related development, Asahi and Nikkei took up a press conference yesterday by President Putin in which he mentioned the possibility of the U.S. deploying ground-based, mid-range ballistic missiles in the Northern Territories. He indicated that the matter should be addressed in bilateral peace treaty negotiations by saying: “I’ve heard news about such a deployment coming both from the U.S. and Japan…. There is no guarantee that a new U.S. attack system will not appear on the islands tomorrow.” According to Mainichi, Putin also expressed the view that the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty poses a threat to Russia’s national security.