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Tokyo wants Moscow to allow former Kuril Islands residents to fly there by plane

January 16, 2017, 5:42 UTC+3 TOKYO

Japan wants to launch direct sea links to Shikotan and Khabomai

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© Sergey Krasnoukhov/TASS

TOKYO, January 16. /TASS/. The Japanese government plans to ask the Russian side to allow former citizens of the South Kuril Islands to travel there by planes, not only by ships, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported.

Tokyo plans to launch consultations with Moscow on this issue soon and the proposal could be implemented by already this spring, according to the report. The Japanese side is considering a possibility of launching air travel between the Nakashibetsu airport, near Nemuro in Hokkaido, and the airports of Kunashir and Iturup - Mendeleyevo and Yasniy.

Japan wants to launch direct sea links to Shikotan and Khabomai. Tokyo does not want these trips to be considered as international, the paper writes.

Now the former citizens of the South Kuril Islands as well as their family members, researchers, representatives of public organizations and journalists can visit the territory without visas. However, all of them have to undergo the necessary procedures at the port of Yuzhno-Kurilsk on the Kunashir Island and then they can travel to Iturup, Shikotan and Khabomai by vessels.

The travel to the islands is limited by the weather conditions. For example, during the winter high waves make the landing impossible. The paper says that the air travel and direct sea links could make easier the visits to the islands for the former citizens.

Since mid-20th century, Russia and Japan have been negotiating a peace treaty after World War II. The main stumbling block to this is the issue of the ownership of the South Kuril Islands. After the end of World War II all Kuril Islands were incorporated into the Soviet Union. However, the ownership of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan islands and the Khabomai Islands is challenged by Japan. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has stated many times that Russia’s sovereignty over the islands is beyond doubt. 

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