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Japan: Russian transport minister’s trip to Kurils contradicts Tokyo’s position

September 08, 2015, 9:59 UTC+3 TOKYO
The Russian Embassy in Japan earlier refuted Japan’s protests against visits of Russian officials to the disputed islands
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Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida

© Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP, Archive

TOKYO, September 8. /TASS/. Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov’s trip to the Kunashir Island contradicts Japan’s position, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told a press conference on Tuesday.

"Talking about the Russian transport minister’s visit to the northern territories [that is how Japan calls the Kuril Islands], it contradicts Japan’s position. In connection with this, we expressed our protest on September 7," Kishida said. He added that nothing is certain yet about his own visit to Russia.

The Russian Embassy in Japan told TASS on Monday that Japan’s protests was refuted. "We refuted this demarche by Japan because Russian ministers can freely move around Russia’s territory in accordance with their official duties. We do not need permission from any foreign states for that," the embassy said. The Transport Ministry’s press service told TASS on Monday that trips to the Kuril Islands will continue, along with the consistent implementation of federal target program "Social and economic development of the Kuril Islands [Sakhalin Region] in 2016-2015."

Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly stated that Moscow will not consider Tokyo’s opinion when drawing up a working schedule for government officials, and that official trips to the Kuril Islands will continue. "We would like to remind one more time that we do not intend to consider Japan’s position when forming a working schedule of the leadership and government officials. Trips to this region, as well as the consistent implementation of federal target program ‘Social and economic development of the Kuril Islands [Sakhalin Region] in 2016-2015’ will continue," the foreign ministry said in a statement distributed after Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to the Kurils at the end of August.

Territorial dispute

Russia and Japan have no peace treaty signed after World War II. Settlement of the problem inherited by Russia’s diplomacy from the Soviet Union is hampered by the years-long dispute over the four islands of Russia’s Southern Kurils — Shikotan, Khabomai, Iturup and Kunashir, which Japan calls its northern territories.

After World War II, in September 1945, Japan signed the capitulation, and in February 1946, the Kuril Islands were declared territories of the Soviet Union.

During the Cold War, Moscow did not recognize the territorial problem, but in October 1993, when Russian president Boris Yeltsin was on an official visit in Japan, the existence of the problem was confirmed officially. However, the two countries have reached no compromise over the dispute yet.

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