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Japan protests Russian deputy PM’s Kurils visit

Japan on Monday filed a protest over the Russian deputy prime minister’s visit to a chain of disputed islands that have marred the two sides’ relations since the end of World War II.

Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto expressed “regret” over repeated visits to the Pacific Kuril Islands by senior Russian officials, and summoned Russian Ambassador Mikhail Bely in protest.

Matsumoto told Bely that such visits conflicted with Japan’s stance and urged Moscow to stop them.

The renewed protest came after Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov and some other ministers made a trip to the islands on Sunday.

The dispute surrounds the southernmost four islands in the chain, which are still claimed by Tokyo and collectively known in Japan as the Northern Territories.

Russian officials have repeated trips to the Kurils despite protests from Japan, after President Dmitry Medvedev became the first Russian leader to visit the archipelago.

Medvedev’s trip in November chilled bilateral ties, with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan calling it an “unforgivable outrage.”

The row over the Kurils, which have been controlled by Moscow since they were seized by Soviet troops in 1945, has prevented the signing of a post-World War II peace treaty.