Japan FM in aerial visit to disputed Russian islands
Japan's Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara on Saturday flew near islands bitterly disputed with Russia, in an apparent demonstration to underscore his country's territorial claims.
Maehara, on board a coastguard patrol airplane, flew near the southern Kuril islands that have been at the centre of a dispute between Moscow and Tokyo since the end of World War II.
The aerial visit came about a month after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited one of the four disputed islands, known as Northern Territories in Japan, off the northernmost Japanese island of Hokkaido.
"I really want to resolve the issue concerning the Northern Territories," Maehara told reporters after viewing the islands, according to Kyodo News.
"Relations between Japan and Russia will become solid if the territorial issue is settled," he said. "We have to tackle it steadily by taking various measures."
The Kurils are a long chain of islands that stretch south of Russia's Kamchatka peninsula. The southernmost four were seized by the Soviet Union at the close of World War II and are controlled by Russia.
The dispute has prevented the signing of a post-war peace treaty and has hampered efforts to boost economic cooperation between the two neighbours.
© 2010 AFP