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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Warship Makes Historic Visit to Japan

TOKYO -- The first Russian warship to visit Japan in more than 100 years berthed at a Tokyo pier Friday, and senior officers from both sides said more military exchanges are needed to improve long-troubled bilateral ties.

The 8,500-ton destroyer, Admiral Vinogradov, was the first Russian navy ship to pay a courtesy call at a Japanese port since 1894, when a warship of the Tsar's navy visited Tokyo on the occasion of Emperor Meiji's 25th wedding anniversary.

"The officers and sailors of our navy and the Maritime Self-Defense Force have long stared at each other from a distance," Vice Admiral Valery Chirov, deputy chief of the Russian Pacific Fleet, said at a welcoming ceremony.

"But this is the first time in over a hundred years that we have invited each other's ships. From now on, we must exchange such visits every other year," Chirov said.

The Admiral Vinogradov arrived just a day after Moscow formally informed Tokyo that its nuclear missiles no longer targeted Japanese cities, but also one day after Japan was reminded of its Cold War past with Russia.

On Thursday, Japan lodged a protest with Moscow after a Russian patrol boat opened fire at a Japanese trawler in waters near disputed islands called the Northern Territories by Japan and the Southern Kuril Islands by Russia. Two Japanese fishermen were wounded, one seriously, the Japanese coast guard said.

The dispute over the islands, seized by the Soviet army in the last days of World War II, has prevented Tokyo from signing a World War II peace treaty with Moscow.

But bilateral ties have thawed since a landmark visit to Japan in 1993 by Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who promised that the dispute would be resolved through dialogue.

Japan has fought Russia four times this century. During the Cold War it regarded the Soviet Union as its greatest military threat, with the attention of its armed forces focused on Vladivostok, home of the Soviet Pacific Fleet.

It was only in 1994 that Japan stopped calling Russia a "latent threat" to this country's security.

"This is a chance for Russian-Japanese exchanges to be strengthened at a time when our two countries have started a political dialogue," said Vice Admiral Takashi Ishiyama, commander of the Japanese navy's Combined Fleet, at Friday's ceremony.

"By exchanging views, by surmounting the obstacle of language and customs, by expressing our needs, thoughts and difficulties, we can support fuller mutual understanding," Ishiyama said.

Last July, the Japanese destroyer Kurama visited Vladivostok to take part in events honoring the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Russian navy. It was the first Japanese warship to make a courtesy call at a Russian port since 1925.