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Kremlin chief of staff compares Japan’s reaction to his Iturup visit to ritual dances

September 25, 2014, 16:39 UTC+3 VLADIVOSTOK
The Kremlin administration chief said his visits to the Kuril Islands did not pursue any political goals
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Sergey Ivanov (center) during his tour of Russia's Far East

Sergey Ivanov (center) during his tour of Russia's Far East

© ITAR-TASS/Alexei Druzhinin

VLADIVOSTOK, September 25 /ITAR-TASS/. The Kremlin administration chief, Sergey Ivanov, has compared Japan’s reaction to his visits to the Kuril Islands to ritual dances.

It looks very much like ritual dances: each time I go there, I hear regrets Sergey Ivanov Kremlin administration chief Ivanov visited the disputed Kuril Islands four times, and each time Japan’s reaction was negative. On September 24, Ivanov visited the southern Kuril island of Iturup as part of a working visit to the Far Eastern Federal District.

“It looks very much like ritual dances: each time I go there, I hear regrets,” Ivanov told journalists. “But I will go there again,” he added.

The Kremlin administration chief said his visits to the Kuril Islands did not pursue any political goals.

“The people /on the Kuril Islands/, our Russian nationals who live there, are happy. All the rest, as diplomats say, is irrelevant to me,” Ivanov stressed.

Japan has protested Ivanov’s visit to Iturup.

“We consider the island to be our territory and we consider visits by Russian officials to be unacceptable,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference the day before, adding that according to his knowledge the protest had been handed over to the Russian side through diplomatic channels.

The Russian embassy in Japan, however, denied receiving any formal protests.

“We had a conversation at the Japanese Foreign Ministry. But we did not receive any official protests. The word ‘protest’ was not used,” a Russian embassy source told ITAR-TASS.

Despite regretting the Kremlin administration chief’s visit to Iturup, Yoshihide Suga said it was unlikely to influence Tokyo intention to continue a dialogue with Moscow. Tokyo knew about Russian high-ranking officials' plans on a trip to Iturup long in advance and used various channels to persuade Moscow to cancel the visit, Suga said.

Sergey Ivanov arrived at Iturup on September 24 to inspect a new airport and other facilities on the island. The Japanese side, in turn, believes that such visits had an aim to accentuate Russia’s sovereignty over the Kuril Islands, which Japan regards as its “northern territories.”

The Kuril Islands, which used to be Japan’s territory before WWII but became part of Russia as a result of the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation at the end of WWII, have been a source of dispute between Russia and Japan all through the postwar period.

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