Japan's reaction to Kurils visit 'unacceptable': minister

1st November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday called Japan's reaction to President Dmitry Medvedev's Kuril islands visit "unacceptable" and said Russia would summon Japan's ambassador to Moscow.

"The reaction of the Japanese side to President Medvedev's visit to the Kurils is unacceptable," he said in a news conference shown on state television.

Medvedev on Monday flew to Kunashir, one of the four contested Kuril islands, staying for around four hours and sparking anger from Japan, which earlier warned that the visit could hurt relations.

"This is our land, and the Russian President is visiting Russian land," Lavrov said while answering questions after meeting his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle in Moscow.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan had called the visit "very regrettable" and Japan's foreign ministry responded by summoning the Russian ambassador Mikhail Bely. Lavrov indicated that Moscow planned a reciprocal measure.

"Today the foreign ministry will invite the Japanese ambassador in Moscow in order to once again confirm our position with all clarity and lack of ambiguity," Lavrov said.

"The Japanese side, of course, must draw conclusions," he said, adding that "Demarches (steps) such as these are unacceptable."

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.

Medvedev's trip is likely to complicate ties ahead of his visit to Japan for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit this month, but analysts said it was a signal to Tokyo that Moscow was not willing to give up the islands.

© 2010 AFP

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