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Japan, Russia agree on denuking N. Korea / But divisions remain over sanctions at 2-plus-2 talks

The Associated Press

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, left, shakes hands with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, second from right, as they leave a press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and Foreign Minister Taro Kono in Moscow on Tuesday.

By Kenta Kamimura and Mikoto Hata / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers MOSCOW — Japan and Russia confirmed at a meeting of their foreign and defense ministers in Moscow on Tuesday that they will cooperate toward the denuclearization of North Korea.

The so-called two-plus-two talks, last held in Tokyo in March 2017, were the third such talks overall and the first to be held in Moscow. Tuesday’s meeting lasted about 1½ hours and was attended by Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera of Japan, and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu of Russia.

Both sides highly praised the U.S.-North Korea summit on June 12, in which an agreement was made on the “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” However, Russia maintained its position that sanctions against Pyongyang should be eased, while Japan called for continuing to impose strict sanctions based on U.N. Security Council resolutions. Japan also sought Russia’s cooperation on the early resolution of the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea and won support from Moscow.

“We’ve agreed to continue to cooperate toward the denuclearization of North Korea, which is a common goal for Japan and Russia,” Kono stressed at a joint press conference after the two-plus-two meeting.

“We’ve welcomed positive moves on the Korean Peninsula,” Lavrov said.

Concerning Russia’s military buildup and exercises in the northern territories and their vicinity, Tokyo asked Moscow to remain calm. Japan also explained that its planned deployment of a land-based Aegis Ashore missile defense system will pose no threat to Russia after Moscow reiterated concerns over the deployment.

Both sides agreed to hold vice-ministerial-level meetings about once a year to serve as preparatory talks for future two-plus-two meetings.

Ahead of Tuesday’s two-plus-two talks, the foreign ministers and defense ministers met separately. The foreign ministers in their meeting agreed to dispatch a fact-finding mission led by the private sector to the northern territories on Aug. 16-20 to flesh out the details of the two countries’ joint economic activities. They also confirmed that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin are to hold a summit on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East in September. Speech

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