TOKYO -- Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Russian navy are expected to conduct joint search-and-rescue exercises off the coast of Vladivostok as early as late this month.
These will mark the first joint exercises between Japan's Self-Defense Forces and the Russian military since Russia annexed Crimea in southern Ukraine this March.
Even with its decision last month to impose sanctions on Russia, the Japanese government has determined that continuing bilateral defense exchanges is important.
Japan and Russia began joint maritime search-and-rescue exercises in 1998. Last year's exercises -- their 14th in total -- took place in December and involved missile destroyers and other vessels in such locations as the Port of Kyoto.
Defense exchanges between Japan and Russia have effectively been suspended since the Ukraine crisis broke out. A visit to Japan by Russian military chief Valeriy Gerasimov, originally scheduled for March, has been postponed. The two countries put a framework for bilateral meetings of foreign and defense ministers in place last year but have no plans to meet this year.
"Search-and-rescue exercises are humanitarian in nature," an official at the Japanese defense ministry says, explaining the intention to carry on as planned. Japan seeks to use the opportunity to reconfirm with Russian navy officials the importance of continuing defense exchanges.