By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The foreign ministers of Japan and Russia have agreed to strengthen economic and security cooperation but made no progress on resolving a long-standing territorial row that has kept the two nations from concluding a peace treaty.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in Tokyo with his Japanese counterpart, Koichiro Gemba. The two men said the two countries need to address the dispute over islands off northeastern Japan in a calm manner.
Gemba said resolving the dispute and forging a peace treaty officially ending their hostilities in World War II is “more necessary than ever.”
The two nations have had a long-running territorial dispute over a string of northern islands known as the Southern Kuriles in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan.
The Soviet Union occupied the four islands at the end of World War II and the dispute has weighed on relations between Tokyo and Moscow ever since.
Both men sought to downplay the dispute and focus on ways the two nations could expand their ties.
“As the security situation in the Asia-Pacific undergoes major changes, the Japan-Russia relationship has taken on new importance,” Gemba said at a joint news conference following what he called a “fruitful” two-hour meeting.
“We reaffirmed that we want to strengthen our cooperation in security, defense, and economic matters, particularly energy modernization,” he added.
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