Moscow puzzled by Japan's ire at Medvedev Kurils visit

1st November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russia said Monday it did not "understand the reaction of the Japanese side" to President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to the disputed Kuril islands, a source in the foreign ministry said Monday.

"We don't understand the reaction of the Japanese side. The Russian position on this issue remains in force, and has not undergone any changes," the source told the Interfax news agency.

The Russian president on Monday made a visit to Kunashir island, one of the four disputed Kuril islands that Japan considers its Northern Territories. The visit is the first in history by a Russian president.

Japanese foreign minister Seiji Maehara called the visit "extremely regrettable" and said it "hurts Japanese public sentiment." Japan also summoned Russia's ambassador Mikhail Bely to Japan to protest the visit.

Bely later called Medvedev's visit "a domestic issue" and said that Japan should "deal with it cool-headedly and in a balanced manner."

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.

The row has prevented Russia and Japan from signing a peace treaty to formally end World War II hostilities, impeding the development of ties to their full potential.

© 2010 AFP

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