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Thursday, July 5, 2012

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Local fare: Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visits a food shop during his visit to Kunashiri, one of the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, on Tuesday. REUTERS / KYODO

Medvedev isle visit draws ire


Staff writer

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's visit to one of the disputed islands off Hokkaido will hurt bilateral ties, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura warned Wednesday.

Medvedev made his second visit to Russian-held Kunashiri on Tuesday afternoon, where he took in a hospital and a wharf, among other sites. The visit sparked anger from Japan, which demands the return of the Russian-controlled islands.

"Prime Minister Medvedev's visit to Kunashiri is extremely regrettable and it is not compatible with Japan's position on the four . . . islands," Fujimura said. The visit "throws cold water on the positive atmosphere of Japan-Russia ties."

According to Fujimura, Medvedev took the trip despite multiple demands from Tokyo that he refrain from do so, including by Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba to Russian Ambassador Eygeny Afnasiev at the end of last month.

"The requests were made on various levels," Fujimura said. "Genba expressed concern that it would become difficult for the two countries to move bilateral cooperation forward, especially at a time when the two countries were in the middle of creating a constructive relationship."

According to the Russian RIA Novosti news agency, Medvedev stressed that the islands, which were seized by Soviet forces at the end of World War II, are a part of Russia.

"They have been our land since ancient times. We will not give even an inch of the land," he was quoted as saying.

As president, Medvedev in November 2010 became the first Russian leader to visit one of the disputed islands and triggered harsh reaction from Tokyo.

Then Prime Minister Naoto Kan slammed the visit as "an unforgivable outrage" and temporarily recalled the Japanese ambassador from Moscow.

But according to Fujimura, the government this time lodged only a "de facto protest."



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