Japan's Kurils anger 'disappoints' Russia

5th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia is "disappointed" at Japan's furious reaction to the Russian defence minister's trip to the disputed Kuril islands, the foreign ministry said Saturday.

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara Friday summoned Russian ambassador Mikhail Bely to receive a strong protest over Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov's snap tour.

It came just two months after President Dmitry Medvedev became the first Russian leader to visit a region still known as the Northern Territories in Japan, which lost the islands to Soviet troops at the end of World War II.

Medvedev was followed by First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and Regional Development Minister Viktor Basargin.

Moscow Saturday indicated it was becoming bored with the regular Japanese complaints.

"Tokyo is continuing to make official comments on the visits to the Kurils by representatives of the Russian state," the foreign ministry said.

"The Russian foreign ministry has already reacted several times to these comments (and) we are disappointed by the fact that the Japanese side continues" to make them.

Medvedev tried to defuse the dispute Friday by telling a Russian Security Council meeting that Serdyukov's visit was not meant as a show of force.

"All of these visits relate to the same thing -- we have to devote attention to the Kuril Islands' development," Medvedev said in televised remarks.

But he stressed once again that the islands "are Russian territories that must develop according to a very obvious scenario -- just like all the other regions of Russia."

He said Russia remained open to diplomatic negotiations with Japan that could eventually result in the signature of a peace treaty formally ending World War II.

But Medvedev insisted that in the future his government must "devote more attention to this particular part of the Russian Federation."

The decades-long impasse has prevented the two sides from developing full trade relations and produced few strategies over how they can overcome their differences.

Maehara seemed particularly critical of the Russian defence minister's tour.

"It happened when I'm trying to develop Japan-Russia relations, including the resolution of the territorial issue," he said. "Such a visit is like pouring cold water on those efforts."

But like Medvedev, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan also said his country wanted more talks.

"We want to continue negotiations (with Russia) patiently by adhering to our basic policy to settle the territorial issue between Japan and Russia and conclude a peace treaty," Kan said.

The dispute surrounds the southernmost four islands, two of which Serdyukov visited on Friday. He said he came to ensure that troops based there were properly equipped.

© 2011 AFP

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