12:52 GMT +325 September 2017
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    People take photos of a banner showing Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Senzaki station in Nagato, Yamaguchi prefecture, Japan, December 14, 2016, a day before their summit meeting. The words on top reads, A new start from here in Nagato.

    Does Growing Mutual Trust Between Russia, Japan Threaten China?

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    On Monday, Russia and Japan held talks in the 2+2 format, including the defense and foreign ministers of the two countries. This was the first meeting under this format of consultations since Crimea’s reunification with Russia in March 2014.

    During talks with his Japanese counterpart Tomomi Inada, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the suspension of Russian and Japanese defense ministries’ high-level interactions has benefited nobody.

    Shoigu also said that Moscow was ready to restore bilateral military cooperation.

    He added that bilateral relations between Moscow and Tokyo significantly intensified in 2016 and added that strengthening interaction in the defense sphere should keep pace with progress in political contacts.

    "In 2016 the bilateral relations considerably intensified. It is important that defense ties are not lagging behind political contacts’ dynamics," Shoigu said.

    In an interview with Sputnik Japan, historian and specialist in Japanese studies Dmitry Streltsov suggested that such cooperation is unlikely to expand to new areas.

    "They [spheres of cooperation] were worked out back in the late-1990s when Russia and Japan signed protocols on cooperation between their defense ministries. Russia-Japan military cooperation doesn’t relate to military doctrines, it is rather focused on humanitarian matters and communications in neighboring areas. This would help develop measures of mutual trust and establish hot-line communications channels," Streltsov said.

    Meanwhile, some experts suggest that the growing mutual trust between Moscow and Tokyo is a threatening factor for China.

    Hyeon Seungsu, a senior analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification, argued that the development of Russo-Japanese military ties indicate that Tokyo’s most important problem is to deter China.

    However, Streltsov pointed out that military cooperation between Moscow and Tokyo is not directed against Beijing.

    "This is not what it is. I can’t rule out that China and Japan has cooperation and communications channels. And they are not directed against Russia. But the meeting between the defense ministers is some kind of a signal to other countries that Russia and Japan are building up their political cooperation via military ties. But they’re not talking behind Beijing’s back. In addition to China, Russia has other interests in the Asian-Pacific region," the expert said.

    However, earlier Russia and Japan had expressed concerns over the deployment of new weapons in the regions, including the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea and Russian Bal and Bastion missile systems on the Kuril Islands.

    "Officially, the THAAD is directed against North Korea. But de facto the United States is trying to reach dominance in the region, breaking the strategic balance. But I don’t think that the deployment of Bal and Bastions missiles on the Kurils was a response to the THAAD deployment. It was aimed at boosting security of Russia’s eastern borders," Streltsov said.

    He added that in particular, the meeting between Shoigu and Inada was aimed to ease mutual concerns between Moscow and Tokyo.

     

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    security, cooperation, talks, Sergei Shoigu, China, Japan, Russia
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