Japan rejects Russia's demand over flag row

3rd March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Japan on Thursday brushed aside Russia's demand for criminal action against Japanese nationalists who allegedly "desecrated" a Russian flag over a territorial dispute.

The right wingers allegedly dragged the national flag along the ground in front of the Russian embassy in Tokyo on February 7 in protest against Russia's occupation of the Kuril islands, called the Northern Territories by Japan.

On Wednesday, the Russian foreign ministry lodged a protest over the case by summoning Keiji Ide, a minister at the Japanese embassy in Moscow, and urged Tokyo to launch a new investigation.

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano rejected the request.

"We have shown our conclusion that the incident did not violate our domestic law," Japan's top government spokesman told reporters in Tokyo.

"Unless new facts arise that can overturn (the conclusion), our country's basic stance is solid," Edano added. "We will firmly explain it to the Russian side."

The disputed islets were seized by Soviet troops in the days after Japan's surrender in World War II, and the row has prevented both sides from signing a peace treaty and forming solid economic ties.

The row flared up anew in November when President Dmitry Medvedev paid an unexpected visit to one of the four islands, followed by a series of trips there by other top Kremlin officials.

Tokyo and Moscow have since been engaged in a heated war of words that continued during a tense February 11 exchange in Moscow between Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

© 2011 AFP

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