Lavrov Patient on Kuril Talks

Russia will continue talks with Japan on settling their territorial dispute even though there was no sign of progress on the status of four Russian-held islands claimed by Japan, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday.

Lavrov said after talks with his visiting Japanese counterpart, Masahiko Komura, that the two nations must work "patiently" to settle the issue.

"We have agreed to continue a serious dialogue aimed at finding a final, mutually acceptable solution to the problem," Lavrov told a news conference. "This goal means intensive, patient work taking into account difficulties and public sentiments in Russia and Japan."

"It will take time, but both parties have a will to move toward a final settlement of the issue," Lavrov added.

Russia captured the four islands at the southern end of the Kuril chain -- known as the Northern Territories in Japan -- in the closing days of World War II.

Tokyo has demanded that Moscow cede all four islands, which are surrounded by rich fishing grounds. The dispute has kept the two countries from signing a treaty formally ending their World War II hostilities.

Komura thanked Russia for handing over an additional list of Japanese citizens who were taken prisoner by the Soviet Union and died in Siberia.

He said that Japanese cooperation with the United States on a prospective missile defense system was not directed against Russia.

Moscow has opposed U.S. plans to deploy missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, saying they will erode Russia's nuclear deterrent.

Lavrov noted the need for an "honest" dialogue with Japan on the missile defense issue and hailed the resumption of work of a bilateral working group dealing with strategic stability. "We have agreed to continue concrete dialogue on these issues to clarify any outstanding questions," he said.