Japan PM says Medvedev visit to Kurils 'very regrettable'
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to a disputed islet in the Kuril Islands on Monday was "very regrettable".
"As Japan has kept its position that the four northern islands belong to Japanese territory, the president's visit there is very regrettable," Kan told parliament, referring to Medvedev's arrival at Kunashiri island on Monday.
The Kuril Islands, which lie north of Japan's Hokkaido island, have been controlled by Moscow since they were seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II, but Tokyo claims the southernmost four as Japanese territory.
In September, Medvedev called the islands "a very important region of our country" and said that "we will definitely go there in the nearest future," prompting a warning from Japan of worsening ties.
Japan has warned that any visit to the Kuril Islands by Medvedev would seriously hurt relations, after the Russian leader said he planned to travel there in September and had only been prevented from doing so because of bad weather.
Japan's Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said Monday the visit "hurts Japanese public sentiment and is extremely regrettable."
© 2010 AFP