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TOKYO, September 23 (Itar-Tass) - Japanese Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs Ichita Yamamoto, who has returned from a trip to the Russian Southern Kurile Islands, admitted that their economic development had exceeded his expectations.
The Northern Territories is the Japanese name for the Southern Kurile Islands that went over to the Soviet Union's jurisdiction at the end of World War II, along with the southern part of the Isle of Sakhalin.
The minister was speaking at a news conference at the port of Nemuro (Hokkaido Island) where he had arrived from Russia’s Iturup Island.
In reply to the query about the situation with the construction of ports, roads and other infrastructure, the minister of state said “there are some sections where everything was as expected, but there are also areas where infrastructure is developed more than I had expected”.
Ichita Yamamoto’s visit was made within the framework of a program of visa-free trips between residents of the Southern Kuril Islands and Japanese nationals. The motor boat Etopirika is used for these trips. Together with a group of former Japanese residents of the Northern Territories, their relatives and officials, the state minister visited on September 20 Kunashir and then moved to Iturup where he spent Saturday and Sunday.
He took part in ceremonies at former Japanese cemeteries, in meetings with Russian residents as well as participated in waste collection on the ocean coast.