Kremlin sees Japan island talks 'losing meaning': report

12th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

A top Kremlin official on Saturday slammed Japan's recent statements on the disputed Kuril islands, telling the Japanese foreign minister that talks on the island chain were "losing meaning."

The Russian president's chief of staff, Sergei Naryshkin harshly upbraided Japan's top diplomat, Seiji Maehara, over Tokyo's outraged reaction to a visit by President Dmitry Medvedev to the islands in November last year.

Tokyo's position had "led to a situation where continuing a discussion of the territorial problem is losing meaning," Naryshkin was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency, citing a Kremlin statement.

The Kurils, which lie just north of Japan's Hokkaido island, have been controlled by Moscow since they were seized by Soviet troops in 1945 but their status remains a major problem in Moscow-Tokyo relations.

The dispute surrounds the southernmost four islands -- known in Russian as Iturup, Shikotan, Habomai and Kunashir -- which are still claimed by Tokyo and collectively known in Japan as the Northern Territories.

Naryshkin said that Russia was ready for peace talks with Japan over the dispute, which has prevented the countries formally ending their World War II hostilities.

"The Russian side is as before keen to discuss the subject of a peace treaty, without preliminary conditions and one-sided historical linkages," the Kremlin statement said.

At the same time the Kremlin statement stressed that Russian officials would visit the islands whenever they wanted, after Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov angered Japan by visiting last week.

Crisis talks between Russia and Japan over four Pacific islands ended in acrimonious failure in Moscow on Friday when Tokyo reaffirmed its claim on the chain and Moscow accused its neighbour of extreme behaviour.

The meeting followed a tense week in which the Japanese prime minister called Medvedev's visit to the islands an "unforgivable outrage" and a bullet was mailed to Moscow's embassy in Tokyo.

Medvedev has responded by insisting the Kurils are an "inseparable" part of Russia and vowing to strengthen the archipelago's defences.

© 2011 AFP

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