Photo/IllutrationJapanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, left, shakes hands with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, second from right, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono leave a news conference after their meeting in Moscow on July 31. (AP Photo)

MOSCOW--Russia expressed concerns about Japan’s plan to deploy the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system during the "two-plus-two" meeting between Russian and Japanese foreign and defense ministers here on July 31.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera met with their Russian counterparts, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, in the first two-plus-two meeting to be held in Russia.

At a joint news conference following the meeting, Lavrov said, "We again attracted attention to the concern that Russia has already expressed regarding the deployment of the U.S. global missile defense."

Onodera said that he had asked for Russian understanding during the four-way meeting and said at the news conference that the Aegis Ashore system is "purely defensive and meant to defend Japan."

He said, "It does not constitute a threat to Russia."

Japan plans to spend 466.4 billion yen ($4.2 billion) to deploy the Aegis Ashore system manufactured by Lockheed Martin. While it is intended to defend against ballistic missiles launched by North Korea, the advanced radar system to be installed has a range of about 1,000 kilometers, meaning that missiles launched from the disputed Northern Territories could also be detected.

Russia has long contended that the Aegis Ashore system was a direct national security concern because it was part of the U.S. plan to deploy a missile defense system in Asia.

Onodera also said at the news conference that he had raised concerns about Russian efforts to strengthen its military capabilities on the four islands making up the Northern Territories as well as a scheduled military exercise by the Russian military this summer in the Far East.

The four ministers agreed to hold periodic meetings at least once a year among the administrative vice ministers of their respective nations in charge of foreign policy and defense. They also confirmed they will continue to keep in close touch on the issue of denuclearization of North Korea.

At the news conference, Kono said, "It will be important to deepen mutual understanding between Japan and Russia in the security sphere."

Prior to the four-way meeting, Kono met separately with Lavrov and they agreed to the deployment of a study team to the Northern Territories from Japan from Aug. 16 to 20 to look into possible joint economic activities.

They also confirmed the need to accelerate preparations for a scheduled September meeting in Vladivostok between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In his separate meeting with Shoigu, Onodera agreed to have Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of staff of the Joint Staff Office, visit Russia before the end of the year and also to plan for the anchoring at Hakodate, Hokkaido of ships from the Russian Pacific fleet.

(This article was written by Dai Nagata and Takashi Kida.)