Japan tries to calm Russia's security fears

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TOKYO, Oct 23 (Reuters) Japan tried to reassure Russia about its missile defence ties with the United States today, after Moscow expressed opposition to Tokyo's involvement in the system earlier this month.

The Russian government also vehemently opposes US plans to position parts of a missile defence shield in eastern Europe.

''Under the current Japanese constitution we have purely defensive power, a shield to protect ourselves when the country is attacked,'' Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura told reporters after meeting counterpart Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Tokyo.

''The missile defence system is not a spear, but a shield,'' he added. ''It is the most suitable tool for our defence policy,'' Komura said.

''And I would like to make it clear that we are absolutely not envisioning an attack from Russia.'' Japan trucked its first PAC-3 interceptor missiles into a military base north of Tokyo in March and plans to test its first ship-based anti-ballistic missile interceptors off Hawaii in a joint exercise with the United States in December.

Lavrov expressed his concerns about the Japan-US project earlier this month in a statement to Kyodo news agency, saying it could lead to an arms race in the region.

Komura also played down Japan's trilateral defence ties with the United States and Australia, after Tokyo signed a defence pact with Canberra in March and the three countries held a trilateral summit in September.

''Japan, Australia and the United States have common interests in the Asia-Pacific region and common values. We have long maintained a strategic dialogue, but we are not talking about creating a three-way military alliance,'' Komura said.

REUTERS SZ HT1800

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