Russia’s Medvedev angers Japan with island visit

July 3, 2012

By Denis Dyomkin, Reuters

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday landed on a remote island chain seized from Japan by the Soviet Union at the end of World War Two, prompting protests from Tokyo which lays claim to the windswept archipelago.

Medvedev’s trip to the disputed islands in Russia’s Far East – known as the Southern Kuriles in Russia but as the Northern Territories in Japan – saw Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summon Russia’s envoy to complain.

“(This) is a territory inherent to Japan, therefore the visit of this kind is unacceptable for Japan and deeply regrettable,” Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Kenichiro Sasae told Russian Ambassador Yevgenny Afanasiyev.

The islands lie off Russia’s eastern coast, some 7,000 km (4,350 miles) from Moscow, and the island of Kunashir, where Medvedev landed, is a mere 15 km away from Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. Moscow’s plans to boost investment in the region’s infrastructure and industry have angered Tokyo.

“The islands of the Kuriles are … our territory which should develop just like the mainland of our country,” Medvedev told reporters in the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk before departing by plane to Kunashir.

“We have to develop new investment projects including those with the participation of foreign firms.”

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