WASHINGTON, February 20 (RIA Novosti, Arkady Orlov) - The US and Japan announced that their "common strategic goal" was "the support of Russia's constructive cooperation in the Asia Pacific region," and also "the complete normalization of Russian-Japanese relations through the solution of the dispute over the "northern territories," says a joint statement released at the conclusion of a scheduled meeting of the US-Japanese consulting committee on security under "two plus two" model with participation of foreign and defense ministers of both countries.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld represented the US side. The Japanese side was represented by Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura and Japanese Dir. Gen., Defense Agency Yoshinori Ono.

The statement also underlines that the US and Japan stand for "the development of relations with China," peaceful unification on the Korean Peninsula and peaceful solution of the North Korean problem, "including its nuclear program, illegal activities in the sphere of the development of ballistic missiles, and humanitarian issues related to abductions of Japanese citizens."

Washington and Tokyo acknowledged their mutual strive to preserve peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region and in Southeast Asia in general, and stressed the importance of the "development of various forms of regional cooperation."

Japan calls "northern territories" four South Kurils islands: (from the north to the south) - Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai (in reality it is a small archipelago of tiny islands adjacent to the Hokkaido island in the north of Japan). Japan lost these islands as a result of the defeat in the World War II. The islands were annexed by the Soviet Union. Japanese authorities connect the return of the islands to the possibility of a peace treaty between Japan and Russia. (The 1956 Soviet-Japanese declaration announced the end of hostilities and re-established diplomatic relations between the two countries).

Russia and Japan acknowledged for the first time the existence of a territorial dispute in a 1991 joint statement signed during USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev's visit to Tokyo.

In 1993, the sides signed a Tokyo Declaration establishing that both sides agreed to continue talks in order to ensure the signing of the peace treaty as soon as possible.

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