TOKYO, September 1 /TASS/. The Russian side has turned down Japan’s protest over the Russian agriculture minister’s trip to Iturup, the biggest island in the Southern Kuril Archipelago, a source at the Russian embassy in Japan told TASS.
"Today we received a protest, which we certainly turned down," the Russian embassy said.
Earlier, Hajime Hayashi, the head of the Japan Foreign Ministry's European Affairs Bureau, voiced a protest to Russian Ambassador to Japan Yevgeny Afanasyev over the Russian minister’s visit to Iturup.
"It is unacceptable and contradictory to Japan’s stance," the local Japanese media quoted Hayashi as saying.
Russian Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev, who is paying a working visit to Russia’s Sakhalin region, visited the Southern Kuril Island of Iturup on Tuesday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has stated many times that Russia is going to ignore Tokyo’s stance if it concerns the working schedule of Russian government officials. Russian leaders will continue visiting the Kuril Islands.
"We would like to remind everybody once again that we are not planning to take account of the Japanese stance in the process of preparing a working schedule for the Russian leaders and government members who will continue visiting this Russian region. We will go ahead with consistent implementation of the federal state programme of Socio-Economic Development of the Kuril Islands /the Sakhalin region/ in 2016-2025," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement released after Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to the Kuril Islands late in August.
The territorial dispute over the Southern Kuril Islands has been the main obstacle preventing Russia and Japan from settling their relations and signing a peace treaty. All Kuril Islands, which used to belong to Japan before WWII, became part of the USSR after the war. Japan, however, has never given up its claims on the islands of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and the Habomai Islands.