Japan PM calls Medvedev island visit 'unforgivable outrage'
Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Monday called Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit in November to a disputed Pacific island chain an "unforgivable outrage", media reports said.
Kan also said Tokyo would tenaciously seek a settlement of the row over the Kurils, known as the Northern Territories in Japan, a dispute which has prevented the signing of a post-World War II peace treaty, Kyodo News said.
The long-simmering row again flared up after Medvedev became the first Russian leader to visit the region. Other Russian government ministers have followed, despite strong diplomatic protests from Tokyo.
Japan's centre-left leader said Monday: "I will patiently negotiate, with a strong will, in accordance with the basic policy to solve the territorial issue of the four islands and to sign a peace treaty."
"The issue of the Northern Territories is an extremely significant subject for Japan's diplomacy," Kan told the annual National Meeting to Demand the Return of the Northern Territories, Jiji Press reported.
The Kurils, which stretch south of Russia's Kamchatka peninsula, were seized by Soviet troops at the close of World War II.
Home to some 19,000 people, the islands are rich in gold and silver and lie in waters abundant in marine life. But their infrastructure is crumbling and most Russian residents eke out a meagre living there.
Medvedev in December said Japan should realise that Moscow would not give up the disputed islands, proposing instead to consider creating a free economic zone there.
© 2011 AFP