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TOKYO, September 7. /TASS/. Russia’s diplomatic mission in Tokyo said Monday it dismissed the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s protest over Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov’s trip to Kunashir Island.
"We have rejected that demarche by Japan, as Russian ministers may freely move along Russian territory in line with their official duties. They don’t need any permission of foreign states for that," Sokolov, who visited the island today, said.
On July 23, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said he planned to visit the Kuril Islands and recommended his government colleagues to follow suit. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida after that sent a request to Medvedev via the Japanese Embassy in Moscow to cancel the trip.
Commenting on Kishida’s words, the Russian prime minister’s spokeswoman Natalya Timakova told TASS that Medvedev "defines the routes of his trips across the country’s territory on his own and does not need recommendations from outside."
On August 14, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said trips of the Russian government to the Kuril Islands will continue despite Tokyo’s position. The ministry called Japan’s comments unacceptable.
During a working trip along Russia’s Far East, Medvedev visited the Kuril Islands on August 22. This caused Tokyo’s negative reaction, and Kishida summoned Russia’s Ambassador to Japan Yevgeny Afanasyev.
The problem of the southern Kuril Islands is the key obstacle to a complete normalization of the Russian-Japanese ties and the signing of a peace treaty. After the Second World War, all Kuril Islands were made part of the Soviet Union. But Japan does not agree that the islands of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and the Habomai island group belong to Russia. Tokyo calls the islands "Northern Territories".