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13:29, 27 June 2017 Tuesday
Update: 15:13, 20 March 2017 Monday

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Russia takes swipe at US missile defence in South Korea
Russia takes swipe at US missile defence in South Korea

The US this month began installing the THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea in response to the North's intensifying ballistic missile development.

World Bulletin / News Desk

Russia on Monday criticised the deployment of a US anti-missile system aimed at North Korea, saying it poses "serious risks" to the region.

Allies Washington and Seoul say it is for purely defensive purposes. China fears it could undermine its own nuclear deterrent and has lashed out, imposing measures seen as economic retaliation on South Korea.

Russia, meanwhile, took advantage of diplomatic and defence talks with US ally Japan to criticise the development.

"We drew attention to the serious risks posed by the deployment of elements of the American global anti-missile system in the Asia-Pacific region," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a press conference, saying Moscow raised the issue in the talks.

"If this is meant to counter threats coming from North Korea, then the deployment of this system and accumulating armaments in the region is a disproportionate reply," he added, apparently referring to THAAD.

Russia last year also expressed worries over plans for the deployment in South Korea.

Lavrov's comments came after so-called two-plus-two talks between the foreign and defence ministers of Russia and Japan.

They also followed a high-profile visit to the region by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who warned that American military action against the North was an option "on the table."

North Korea did come in for criticism at the Russia-Japan meeting for its nuclear and missile development.

"We shared the view that we will strongly urge North Korea to exercise self-restraint over further provocative actions and follow UN Security Council resolutions," said Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

North Korea is banned by the international community from pursuing nuclear and missile programmes but has defiantly ploughed ahead.

It staged its two latest nuclear tests last year and recently fired off missiles which it described as practice for an attack on US bases in Japan.

Japan and Russia also tried to further bridge differences over a long-standing territorial dispute dating from World War II but achieved no major breakthroughs.

The Soviet Union seized four islands off Japan's northern coast in 1945 in the closing days of the war and the dispute has prevented a peace treaty to formally end the conflict.

The foreign and defence ministers' meeting, the first since late 2013, followed a December summit between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin that focused on the territorial row.

Kishida announced that Abe will visit Russia in late April to continue their discussions on efforts to finally conclude a peace treaty ending the war.



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Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland
Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said Monday he hopes to clinch a reunification deal laying out a new security blueprint for the divided island during a crunch summit in Switzerland this week. Anastasiades will attend United Nations-backed talks at the Alpine Crans-Montana ski resort Wednesday with "complete determination and goodwill... to achieve a desired solution", he said in a statement. He said he hopes to "abolish the anachronistic system of guarantees and intervention rights", with a deal providing for the withdrawal of the Turkish army. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece. Turkey maintains around 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. The so-called guarantor powers of Turkey, Britain and Greece retain the right to intervene militarily on the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriots are at odds over a new security blueprint, but their leaders are under pressure to reach an elusive peace deal. "I am going to Switzerland to participate in the Cyprus conference, with the sole aim and intent of solving the Cyprus problem," Anastasiades said. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is also set to attend the summit, which is expected to last at least 10 days. Greece, Turkey and Britain will send envoys along with an observer from the European Union. UN-led talks on the island hit a wall in late May after the sides failed to agree terms to advance toward a final summit. Unlocking the security question would allow Anastasiades and Akinci to make unprecedented concessions on core issues. But they have major differences on what a new security blueprint should look like. Anastasiades's internationally recognised government, backed by Athens, seeks an agreement to abolish intervention rights, with Turkish troops withdrawing from the island on a specific timeline. Turkish Cypriots and Ankara argue for some form of intervention rights and a reduced number of troops remaining in the north. Turkish Cypriots want the conference to focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory for the creation of a new federation. Much of the progress to date has been based on strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But that goodwill has appeared frayed in the build-up to their meeting in Switzerland. The Greek Cypriot presidential election next February has also complicated the landscape, as has the government's search for offshore oil and gas, which Ankara argues should be suspended until the negotiations have reached an outcome.