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Japan Protests Russian Comments On Disputed Islands --> (RFE/RL) 16 November 2005 -- Japan today protested comments by a Russian official criticizing Tokyo's stance on a territorial dispute between the two nations.

Russian presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko told Japanese journalists yesterday that preparations for a joint document ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Japan on 20-22 November are facing difficulties.

He said the two countries are "completely split" over four disputed Pacific Ocean islands, called the Southern Kuriles by Moscow and the Northern Territories by Tokyo.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said at a news conference today that Tokyo "cannot accept" such comments which he said are "extremely regrettable".

The dispute over the islands seized by the Soviet Union near the end of World War II has prevented the two countries from signing a formal peace treaty.