Russia opposed to US-Japan ties in defence-Kyodo

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TOKYO, Oct 13 (Reuters) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed his concerns about Japan and the United States cooperating in a missile defence shield programme, Kyodo news agency reported today.

Lavrov replied to Kyodo questions in a statement that he was opposed to Tokyo's involvement in U.S. defence strategy.

''We oppose the construction of missile defence systems whose purpose is to ensure military superiority,'' Kyodo quoted Lavrov as saying.

The minister also said that increased ties between Japan, Australia and the United States in defence would produce negative results.

Japan says that it is involved in the programme to protect against the missile threat from North Korea, but the Lavrov said that a more a effective solution could be achieved through diplomacy.

Kyodo said Lavrov was scheduled to visit Japan around the end of this month.

In March, Japan trucked its first ballistic missile interceptors to an air force base north of Tokyo in an effort to beef up its defences against North Korea.

Yesterday, the United States and Russia failed to settle their differences on US plans to place a missile defence shield in Europe, and Washington rejected a request from Moscow to freeze the project.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Lavrov, after talks in Moscow, also clashed publicly on how to tackle Iran's nuclear ambitions. Lavrov called Washington's tough stance unhelpful.

REUTERS PD BD1625

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