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Japan says Russian PM’s possible visit to Kuril Islands runs counter to its stance

Medvedev’s press secretary said that the head of the Russian government "is free to visit" any Russian region if he thinks this is necessary

TOKYO, July 29. /TASS/. Tokyo believes that a possible visit of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to the Southern Kuril Islands contradicts the Japanese government’s position on these territories, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono told reporters on Monday.

"This is incompatible with our government’s position," Kono said when asked to comment on the upcoming visit of the Russian premier.

A renowned Japanese politician, Muneo Suzuki, who is in charge of dialogue with Russia and is considered as an unofficial adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Japanese-Russian relations, announced that Medvedev was expected to visit Iturup, one of the Southern Kuril Islands, on August 1-2.

On July 24, Medvedev’s Press Secretary Oleg Osipov refused to comment on the prime minister’s upcoming visits. However, he noted that the head of the Russian government "is free to visit" any Russian region if he thinks this is necessary, including the Kuril Islands, which are part of Russia’s Sakhalin Region.

Last time, Medvedev visited Iturup in summer 2015. He inspected a local airport and the Reidovo fish processing plant and met with the participants of the Iturup all-Russian youth educational forum. Tokyo often voices protest over the visits of Russian officials to the Southern Kuril Islands. Moscow has rejected these protests on many occasions.

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.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly said that Russia’s sovereignty over these islands, which is committed to paper in international documents, cannot be called in question.