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Comment by the Information and Press Department on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s forthcoming visit to Japan to attend the Russia-Japan consultations in the Two Plus Two format (17.03.2017)

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit Japan on March 20–21 to take part in the second round of the Russia-Japan consultations of foreign and defence ministries in the Two Plus Two format. The work of this bilateral dialogue mechanism is being resumed pursuant to the agreement reached during the official visit of President Vladimir Putin to Japan in December 2016. The first round of consultations was held in Tokyo in November 2013.  

We consider the use of the Two Plus Two format to be important for substantive discussions with Tokyo on key global and regional problems. We intend to spell out to the Japanese side Russia’s fundamental approaches to the formation of a new security architecture in the Asia-Pacific Region based on the non-bloc approach and on taking into account the concerns of all regional participants. We will also discuss confidence building measures between Russia and Japan in the field of defence and security, and will present to our partners our assessments connected with the deployment of elements of the US ballistic missile defence system in the Asia-Pacific Region. We will be prepared to discuss the possibilities of building up joint efforts in combating international terrorism and drug trafficking.

Sergey Lavrov will also have separate talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. The two ministers will review progress in the implementation of the agreements achieved as a result of the official visit to Japan by President Putin on December 15–16, 2016, and the timetable of further political contacts, including at the top level. 

Sergey Lavrov’s trip to Tokyo will continue the series of bilateral contacts between the two foreign ministries in 2017 and will be the key stage in preparing the upcoming visit to Russia by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

We note the positive trends connected with stepping up the Russia-Japan political dialogue. The results of the first official visit to Japan by a Russian President in eleven years are unprecedented in terms of the spheres of cooperation covered and the number of documents signed: 12 intergovernmental and interdepartmental agreements and 68 commercial contracts. The leaders have agreed to continue close dialogue. Shinzo Abe was invited to visit Russia. In addition, the Prime Minister of Japan has promised to take part in the Third Eastern Economic Forum in September 2017.

Interaction in the security field is becoming closer. Apart from the forthcoming resumption of consultations between foreign and defence ministers in Two Plus Two format, there are close contacts between the Security Councils of the two countries and a strategic dialogue at the level of first deputy foreign ministers.

We shall continue work to flesh out promising bilateral projects based on Shinzo Abe’s Cooperation Plan in eight areas, and reciprocal proposals of the Russian side on the basis of which pilot programmes have already been formed. We are convinced that their consistent implementation will “give a push” to the whole range of bilateral economic ties and make it possible to turn around the situation with falling trade. We expect the visit to Tokyo by the Russian Minister of Economic Development and the Russian President’s special envoy for promoting trade and economic ties with Japan, Maxim Oreshkin, scheduled for the end of March, to make a tangible contribution to tapping the potential for trade and economic interaction.

We note the active development of interparliamentary exchanges. Last year saw visits to Japan by the speakers of both houses of the Federal Assembly.

We welcome the positive dynamics of bilateral cultural and humanitarian links. This year, Russian Seasons will be held in Japan. In 2018, there will be cross-years of Russia in Japan and Japan in Russia. The implementation of this initiative will contribute to strengthening the positive image of Russia and Japan respectively with the public in the two countries.

In accordance with the instructions of President Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Abe, the first round of consultations at the level of deputy foreign ministers on establishing joint economic activities on the Southern Kuril Islands will take place on March 18.  We believe it is important that the implementation of joint projects should bring tangible benefits to the population of the Southern Kuril Islands and the people of Hokkaido, and contribute to the social and economic development of the Southern Kurils. Active work is underway to further simplify the procedure of visits by former Japanese inhabitants of the islands of the graves of their ancestors on the Southern Kurils.