Japan urges Russian president not to visit disputed islands

29th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Japan called on Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday not to visit the Pacific Kuril Islands that are at the centre of a territorial dispute, warning of damage to bilateral relations.

Japan's Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara warned that a presidential visit to the islands would "severely hurt ties", the Kyodo News agency reported.

Medvedev earlier called the four islands -- which have been disputed between the two countries since the end of World War II -- a "very important" part of Russia and announced plans to visit them "in the nearest future".

The Russian president, on a visit to his country's far east, said that only poor weather had prevented him from flying to the islands that day.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, the top government spokesman, said at a regular press conference: "We have communicated our country's stance to the Russian side through various channels."

Asked if Japan wanted Medvedev to stay away from the islands, he said: "To sum it up, that's correct."

The Kuril Islands, north of Japan's Hokkaido island, have been controlled by Moscow since they were seized by Soviet troops in 1945. The dispute surrounds the southernmost four islands, known in Japan as the Northern Territories.

Japan has also been sparring with China for the past three weeks in another territorial row, centred on islands located between Japan's Okinawa island and Taiwan which are called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

© 2010 AFP

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