TOKYO, January 14. /TASS/. Japan will continue its negotiations with Russia to resolve its territorial dispute and conclude a peace treaty, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said at a press conference on Friday.
"We will continue [our] close negotiations with Russia based on our fundamental position, [which is] the resolution of the territorial issue and the conclusion of a peace treaty," he stressed. In addition, the top diplomat pointed out that Tokyo deemed the "strengthening of Russia’s military presence on the four northern islands to be unacceptable" (a customary reference in Japan to Russia's South Kuril Islands — TASS), and denounced the Russian side’s conduct of firing drills near the southern Kuril Islands. "It goes against our position, [it] is unacceptable, we voiced our protest, and we are closely monitoring and will continue to monitor the actions of the Russian side," he pledged.
On Thursday, the Tokyo-based Kyodo News agency reported that the Japanese government issued a protest to Russia over the firing drills that Japan says started on January 11 in the waters near the Kunashir Island.
For decades, Moscow and Tokyo have been holding consultations in order to clinch a peace treaty as a follow-up to World War II. The southern Kuril Islands issue remains the key sticking point. In 1945, the whole archipelago was handed over to the Soviet Union. Tokyo laid claims to Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and a group of uninhabited islands. The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly stated that Moscow’s sovereignty over the islands is enshrined in international law and cannot be called into question.