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Bullet sent to Russian embassy in Japan island row

A rifle bullet has been mailed to the Russian embassy in Japan, police said Tuesday, amid a worsening territorial row over a string of disputed islands.

The disagreement over the Southern Kurils, known as the Northern Territories in Japan, has prevented the signing of a peace treaty between Tokyo and Moscow ever since the end of World War II.

Tensions flared Monday when Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan called President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit last year to the islands an “unforgivable outrage” and the Kremlin again vowed it would never give up the Kurils.

On the same day, marked in Japan as the annual Northern Territories Day, a seven-centimetre (2.8 inch) rifle bullet was found in an envelope mailed to the Russian embassy in Tokyo, media reports said.

It was reportedly accompanied by a note that said: “The Northern Territories are an integral part of Japan.”

The bullet was a dummy cartridge without gunpowder, Jiji Press said.

A police spokesman confirmed that a bullet had been sent to the embassy, but refused to give further details.

The islands have been controlled by Moscow since they were seized by Soviet troops in the final days of World War II, with their Japanese residents expelled and replaced by Russian settlers.

Japan demands the return of the southernmost four of the Kuril islands.

The dispute has intensified since Medvedev in November became the first Russian leader to visit the windswept islands, located between Japan’s Hokkaido island and Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula.

The dispute flared up at a sensitive time for Japan, as it was also embroiled in a territorial row over islands with China.

Bullets were also mailed to the Chinese embassy in Tokyo at the time.