Russia PM visits disputed Kurils, triggering protests from Japan
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev landed Saturday in the Kuril islands, prompting a swift rebuke from Tokyo, which claims sovereignty over the northwest Pacific archipelago in a long-running dispute.
Medvedev visited Iturup, one of four islands in the chain that lies off Russia’s far eastern coast and just north of Japan, Russian media reports said.
“Everything is perfectly modern here,” Medvedev was quoted as saying on his arrival.
“This is the result of our development program for the Kuril islands.”
Hajime Hayashi, the head of the Japanese foreign ministry’s European division, phoned the Russian ambassador in Tokyo over the visit to the islands, which Japan calls the Northern Territories.
The trip “contradicts Japan’s position over the Northern Territories and hurts the feelings of the Japanese people ... It is extremely regrettable,” Hayashi said, quoted by a Japanese foreign ministry official.
Soviet troops seized the islands just after Japan surrendered in World War II.
The seven-decade-old dispute has hampered trade and prevented Moscow and Tokyo from signing a formal post-war peace treaty.
Both the Kremlin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had hoped to start mending relations in order to revive trade, with Japan seeking broader access to Russia’s plentiful oil and natural gas supplies.