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Japan says Russian official’s visit to disputed island unlikely to affect dialogue

September 24, 2014, 11:39 UTC+3 TOKYO
The Japanese side believes the visits of Russian officials are aimed at emphasizing Russia’s sovereignty on the islands that Tokyo calls the Northern Territories
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Sergey Ivanov

Sergey Ivanov

© ITAR-TASS/Vladimir Smirnov

TOKYO, September 24. /ITAR-TASS/. The Japanese government “deeply regrets” the visit of Russian President's Chief of Staff Sergey Ivanov to the disputed Iturup Island, but the move is unlikely to affect Tokyo’s plans to continue talks with Moscow, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday.

Although the visit is “inconsistent with the feelings of the Japanese people,” it is not expected to negatively impact the plans of Moscow and Tokyo to continue the dialogue in the interests of the development of bilateral relations, Suga told reporters.

Despite Tokyo’s calls to cancel the visit, Ivanov arrived on the largest island of the South Kuril Islands, Iturup, on Wednesday where he toured the recently opened airport and discussed the pressing issues with the airport personnel.

The Japanese side believes the visits of Russian officials are aimed at emphasizing Russia’s sovereignty on the islands that Tokyo calls the Northern Territories. The four islands - Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai - are the subject of a 60-year-old dispute between the two nations.

Ivanov confirmed on Wednesday that he arrived on the island to discuss primarily social and economic development of the region, and not political issues. The Russian official added that he listens to Tokyo’s claims “with patience.”

Forthcoming meetings of Russian and Japanese officials

A spokesman for the Japanese Foreign Ministry has meanwhile failed to confirm the date of the meeting between the Russian and Japanese leaders, planned for November during the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Beijing.

“As for the schedule of the visit of [President Vladimir] Putin to Japan, nothing has been decided yet,” the diplomat said, adding: “This issue will be studied on the basis of a complex consideration of various factors.”

Last week, Japan decided to delay the announcement of a new round of sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis. The postponement signals that Tokyo is unlikely to support harsher sanctions and wants to keep a diplomatic door open with Moscow, analysts say.

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