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Medvedev’s Visit to Kuril Islands Worsens Row With Japan

Medvedev’s Visit to Kuril Islands Worsens Row With Japan

Posted November. 02, 2010 11:25,   


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made a surprise visit Monday morning to the Kuril Islands, which are at the heart of a territorial dispute with Japan.

Japan, which has claimed sovereignty over four of the islands, blasted the visit and could face a diplomatic cold war against Russia as well as against China.

Japanese media reported that Medvedev flew into Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the capital of Russia’s Sakhalin province, transferred to a small plane, and arrived at Kuril at 9 a.m.

He is the first Russian head of state dating back to the era of the former Soviet Union to visit the islands. Tokyo has claimed the four southernmost Kuril Islands northwest of Hokkaido as its territory.

The Russian leader visited an infrastructure inspection project Moscow is conducting under the “Kuril society economic development plan” it adopted in 2006. In the hope of expediting development in the economically deprived Russian Far East, Russia will expand infrastructure including airports, ports, power stations and fishery processing plants in the region by 2015 by injecting massive funds.

Medvedev had planned a visit to Kuril in late September, but canceled the trip due to bad weather. At the time, he said, “(The Kuril Islands) are a very important region of Russia. I will visit the islands without fail in the near future.”

In a visit to China Sept. 27, when Tokyo was embroiled in a conflict with Beijing over the Senkaku islands, or called the Diaoyu Islands by China, Medvedev said, “The Russian occupation of the Kuril Islands is a result of the Second World War and this cannot be reversed,” in a gesture of Moscow’s concerted efforts with Beijing over terrestrial disputes with Tokyo.

The Japanese government expressed shock over the Russian president’s surprise visit to what Tokyo calls the Northern Territories.

In a budgetary committee meeting at Japan’s House of Representatives, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said, “Japan has consistently maintained that the Northern Territories are Japanese territory, and it is very regrettable that the Russian president went to the region.”

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, who holds a hawkish stance in diplomacy, called in the Russian ambassador to Japan to protest Medvedev’s visit, saying, “The visit to the Northern Territories has angered the Japanese people.”