TOKYO, February 27. /TASS/. Tokyo has voiced its protest to Moscow after a delegation of Russian officials paid a visit to the Southern Kuril Islands to take part in a ceremony to launch an underwater fiber-optic communication line to provide local residents with Internet access, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
"This is unacceptable and runs counter to our legal position. We voiced this protest via diplomatic channels," the ministry told TASS. The protest was handed over to the Russian Foreign Ministry through the Japanese Embassy in Moscow.
A solution to the territorial dispute with Russia is crucial for Tokyo, the ministry noted. "Our basic course remains unchanged. We are determined to continue holding persistent talks with Russia to solve the Northern Territories problem [Russia’s Southern Kuril Islands] and sign a peace treaty," the ministry stressed.
The ceremony to launch an underwater fiber-optic communication line, which was held on Shikotan Island on Tuesday, was attended by Russian Presidential Special Envoy for Environmental Protection, Ecology and Transport Sergey Ivanov, Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media Konstantin Noskov, Deputy Governor of the Sakhalin Region Valery Limarenko and CEO of Rostelecom digital services provider Mikhail Oseevsky.
Russia and Japan have been in talks to sign a peace treaty since the mid-20th century. The main stumbling block to achieving this is the ownership issue over the Southern Kuril Islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan. After the end of World War II, the Kuril Islands were incorporated into the Soviet Union. However, the ownership of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan Islands and the Habomai Islands has been challenged by Japan.