TOKYO, July 20 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo
Abe pledged to continue dialogue with Russian President Vladimir
Putin, taking a softer line with Moscow than some Western powers
after the shooting down of a passenger jet over Ukraine.
Abe has worked to improve Japan's relations with
resource-rich Russia, a centrepiece of his foreign policy.
"Russia should commit constructively to various
international issues as a responsible state. To help that I will
continue dialogue with President Putin," Abe said in a speech
carried in Japanese media.
"Any conflict should be solved not by power but by
diplomatic means based on international law," he said.
Ukraine has accused Russia and pro-Moscow rebels of
destroying evidence to cover up their guilt in the shooting down
of the Malaysia Airlines jet that has intensified a showdown
between the Kremlin and Western powers.
Calling it "an outrage of unspeakable proportions", U.S.
President Barack Obama stopped short of directly blaming Russia
for the incident but warned that he was prepared to tighten
Britain said on Sunday it would seek to persuade other
European nations at an EU meeting on Tuesday to ratchet up
sanctions on Russia.
World leaders have called for a rapid investigation into the
shooting down of the airliner which was carrying 298 passengers.
The incident could mark a pivotal moment in deteriorating
relations between Russia and the West.
The United States and Britain said a surface-to-air missile
appeared to have been fired from rebel-held territory.
In his first year in office, Abe met with Putin five times,
while failing to secure a summit with the leaders of
neighbouring China or South Korea.
Closer ties between Tokyo and Moscow, despite a territorial
dispute dating from the end of World War Two, are driven by
mutual energy interests, as Russia plans to at least double oil
and gas flows to Asia in the next 20 years.
Japan has been forced to import huge volumes of fuel to
replace lost energy from its nuclear power industry, shut down
after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Abe also wants to advance talks on the dispute over islands
north of Hokkaido, which Russia says are part of the southern
Kuriles but Japan claims as its Northern Territories.
(Reporting by Ayai Tomisawa; Editing by William Mallard and