Japan PM asks Russia for talks on island dispute

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Japan's prime minister on Saturday urged Russia to engage in more substantial talks on a long-running island dispute, saying that the two nations should be "calm" in their discussions.

On the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit in Hawaii, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and said he hoped that the two countries would cooperate on a variety of issues.

But the two nations have never formally ended World War II due to Japan's claim to four Kuril islands off its northern coast. Soviet troops seized the islands shortly after Japan's surrender in 1945 and expelled their residents.

"The two countries have different opinions, but Japan would like to conduct substantial discussions in a calm environment," Noda told reporters after the talks.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in September also called for a "calm atmosphere" in the talks, but said they could not begin on the basis of Japan's position that Russia has no legitimate right to the islands.

Medvedev outraged Japan a year ago when he became the first Russian leader to visit the windswept islands. In September, Japan accused Russia of exerting pressure by flying bombers around the country, but Moscow insisted it conducted the exercises in neutral waters.

© 2011 AFP

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