Japan urges Russia to stop bomber flights
Russian bombers have flown around Japan amid a territorial dispute, Tokyo's new Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said Friday, calling on Moscow to refrain from "provocative" military action.
Gemba said he expressed Tokyo's concern about the flight of two Tupolev Tu-95MS bombers around the Japanese mainland on Thursday, in a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
The two countries are in dispute over Russian-held islands on the fringe of the Okhotsk Sea, called the southern Kurils in Russia but also claimed by Japan, where they are collectively known as the Northern Territories.
The dispute worsened last November when Dmitry Medvedev became the first Russian president to visit the archipelago, followed by other senior Russian officials.
Thursday's flight had aroused "suspicion among the Japanese people about its intentions," Gemba told a news conference. "I requested that (Russia) refrain from taking provocative action."
Lavrov pointed out that the flight did not breach international law as the aircraft did not enter Japanese airspace but added that Moscow was ready to provide information to Tokyo "if necessary," Gemba said.
Gemba, who was appointed as foreign minister one week ago when new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda formed a cabinet, said he called on Moscow to solve the island issue and sign a post-war peace treaty.
The row over the Kurils, which Soviet troops seized in the closing days of World War II in 1945, has prevented the two countries from signing a treaty to formally end the conflict.
© 2011 AFP