Russian PM visits disputed island

Protests triggered in Japan over Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to disputed Kuril islands

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev inspects a port station at the Kitovyi settlement during his visit on Iturup Islet, one of four islands of Russian-held Kurils

Protests were held on Saturday in Japan over Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s recent visit to Russian-held archipelago off Hokkaido, which is claimed by Japan, according to Russian media reports.

Medvedev landed on Iturup, one of the four Kuril islands which is located in country’s far eastern coast, to attend a forum which will discuss economical development projects for the disputed islands, Interfax News Agency reported on Saturday.

The Russian government supplied 17bn roubles ($630m) in early August 2006 to improve energy and transport infrastructure on the islets to help the 30,000 strong Russian community living in the islands.

"Everything is perfectly modern here," Medvedev said following his arrival to the island.

"This is the result of our development programme for the Kuril islands," he added.

The dispute has been on-going between the two countries since Russian annexation of the volcanic archipelago at the end of World War II. Russian sovereignty on the islets is not recognized by Japan, which refers to the islands as its Northern Territories.

Following the end of World War II, 48 nations, including Japan, Russia and the allied powers signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, on September 8, 1951. According to the treaty, Japan must renounce all claims to the disputed islets.

Shortly after the arrival of Medvedev to Iturup island, senior Japanese Foreign Ministry Official Hajime Hayashi, called Russian Ambassador to Japan, Evgeny Afanasiev, to lodge a protest over Medvedev's visit, according to a statement from the Japanese Ministry.  

“The trip contradicts Japan's position over the Northern Territories and hurts the feelings of the Japanese people... It is extremely regrettable", Hayashi said on the telephone, quoted by a foreign ministry official.

As the visit remained a top issue in the country on Saturday, Japanese Foreign Ministry announced that Foreign Minister Fumio Kashida’s visit to Russia, scheduled for the end of August will be postponed, the Nikkei business daily reported, without giving any further information about what caused the decision for the postponement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, seek to restore ties between two countries, which had been strained by the decades-old reclamations over the disputed islands.  

It is expected that Russian President will arrange a visit to Tokyo this year for the purpose of holding summit talks with Abe, who is seeking broader access to Russia’s plentiful oil and natural gas supplies, according to Kyodo News Agency.   

Kremlin plans to double the oil and gas sales to Asia over the next 20 years, due to Japan suffering from an energy deficit after shutting down its nuclear energy facilities as a result of the 2011 Fukushima disaster triggered by a huge earthquake and tsunami.

TRTWorld and agencies