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Japan Protests Russian PM's Visit To Disputed Islands

A Russian soldier on July 2 shot and killed up to three accountants before killing himself at a branch of the Russian Central Bank on the island of Kunashir, where Medvedev landed for his trip.
A Russian soldier on July 2 shot and killed up to three accountants before killing himself at a branch of the Russian Central Bank on the island of Kunashir, where Medvedev landed for his trip.
The Japanese government has summoned Russia's ambassador to Tokyo to express "extreme regret" over a visit by Prime Minister Dmitry Medevedev to a chain of Russian-controlled islands that are also claimed by Japan.

Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said on July 3 that the visit to the Kuriles “pours cold water" on Russia-Japan relations.

Ahead of his arrival earlier the same day on Kunashir Island, Medvedev called the Southern Kuriles "an important part of the Russian land."

Speaking at a government meeting on Sakhalin Island, Medvedev also warned that ceding territory leads to the disintegration of a state.

"Those who gave away even a small patch of land usually sowed a storm. All of this ends in the collapse of a state," he said in televised remarks. "This is a very dangerous thing."

The Russian prime minister also pledged to improve the lives of the Kurile residents, many of whom eke out a threadbare living on the windswept chain.

"The farthest region of our state cannot and should not be the most deprived region although this was virtually the case some time ago," Medvedev said.

In November 2010, when he was president, Medvedev became the first Russian president to visit the island chain. The islands, home to some 19,000 people, are rich in gold and silver and lie in waters abundant in marine life.

Tokyo claims the chain's four southernmost islands, known as the Northern Territories in Japan. The two countries' dispute over ownership continues to cast a cloud over  Russian-Japanese relations and complicate investment and trade.

Tensions surrounding the Kuriles soared upon Medvedev's first visit two years ago, with Moscow saying in February 2011 that it would boost military defenses on the islands.

However, the dispute slackened somewhat after the earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident that shook Japan in March 2011 and prompted expressions of solidarity in Russia.

Russia and Japan have yet to sign a World War II peace treaty due to Tokyo's ownership claim.

Moscow seized control of the islands at the end of the war.

Based on reporting by AFP, Interfax, and ITAR-TASS
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by: john from: canada
July 03, 2012 18:32
Soviets claimed both the Northern Territory islands as well as Kaliningrad exclave, and then expulsed the native residents of both. Now, with some hypocrisy, Russia is on UN De-colonization committee supporting Argentina's claims for Falkland Islands which have been British since 1833 and with no native residents expulsed.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 04, 2012 04:51
The Japanese and the Germans should just come and take the Northern Territories and the Kaliningrad exclave back - just as Mischa Saakaschwili did with Abkhazia and Osetia in 2008 :-)).
In Response

by: john from: canada
July 04, 2012 15:13
As Argentina's fascist military junta [tried] to take back the Falkland Islands in 1982?

If UN Decolonization committee members including Russia expect Britain to give Falkland Islands land to Argentina, Russia should expect that both the Northern Territory and Kaliningrad should be given back to their pre-expulsion inhabitants and countries. Russia has less claim on those 2 areas than the Falkland Islands people have to remain a self-determining territory of Britain.
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 05, 2012 18:37
How much far is England from falkland ?

And ... how much far are Kuriles from Russia ?

I think it is time for Russia ask back Alaska !
In Response

by: john from: canada
July 06, 2012 13:30
Distance is not relevant, but if anybody thinks so, Northern Territories mainland Japan as they are to Russia, same with Kaliningrad distance same between Germany and Russia. Many countries have distant Overseas Territories, and in EU, includes Denmark, Netherlands, France, Spain, UK.

Distance between USA territories Guam and St Croix is 15,300 kms, distance from Britain to Falkland Islands is 14,000 kms.

Russians sold Alaska to US, but Canada is actually closer to Alaska than Russia because Canada has extensive land border with Alaska.

Because China and North Korea are farming Russia, working in Russia, and many since many Russian women prefer Chinese husbands, soon, Siberia and Far East will be de facto territories of China.

by: Demetrius Minneapolis from: My House
July 03, 2012 22:02
I wonder if Russia will remember Medevedev's words when the billionth round of near east negotiations warns Israel to give up more territory. Yeah, somehow I doubt that will happen.

by: Sergey from: Russia
July 05, 2012 13:48
I'm sad to see the way the relationships between in Russia and Japan are going again.
In Response

by: Tsuneo Akaha from: California
July 08, 2012 18:48
I too am sad about the way the Russian-Japanese territorial dispute continues to cast a very dark cloud over the bilateral relations. Russia and Japan have so many important issues of mutual interest that they should be cooperating on. I am glad, though, that bilateral trade and economic ties are growing and will continue to grow despite the territorial row. About Medvedev's second visit to the disputed islands, I should note that he -- or any other high-ranking Russian officials -- has visited the Habomais and Shikotan, two of the southern Kurils/Northern Territories, imparting the impression that Moscow wants to return just those smaller islands to Japan and conclude a peace treaty. Leaders in Japan have stated this is not a compromise they can accept; they continue to insist on the return of Etorofu/Iturup and Kunashiri/Kunashir islands as well. I personally think the only acceptable solution would be 2+?. Putin has implied the two sides should accept a draw, or "hikiwake" in judo language. Tokyo will never consider the return of just Habomais and Shikotan as a draw given their small size. Why did Medvedev visit Kunashir this time? He wants to demonstrate his role as prime minister and he is not Putin's lapdog but do so in such a way that Putin cannot publicly criticize him. Medvedev is right; Putin cannot criticize him for visiting Russian territory as he pleases. The second reason Medvedev has visited the disputed islands twice so far is to demonstrate his government's commitment to develop the Far Eastern territories, including the southern Kurils, which have long been neglected by Moscow. Since Putin is equally committed to the development of the Far East, the president cannot criticize his prime minister on this score. So, these two reasons are designed for the domestic audience in Russia. Of course, Tokyo, for its own domestic reasons, has no choice but to criticize Medvedev's visits to the islands. What is deeply regrettable is that the Russian prime minister, in response to Japan's criticism, has reportedly stated that Japan's criticism is of no concern to him. Maybe he is showing this nationalist posture to build his nationalist credentials, which are essential to any Russian leader now. This points to yet another domestically-oriented reason why Medvedev visited Kunashir -- to demonstrate his determination to keep Russia as one united nation. This too is a reason Putin shares. What most commentators have neglected to point out is that Russia has conceded some territories to China in their border demarcation agreement of 1991, which has been fully implemented by the late 1990s. So, if political pragmatism prevails in the Kremlin -- and I believe Putin is a political pragmatist -- a compromise with Tokyo is possible. Now, is there pragmatism on the Japanese side as well? The current political mess in Tokyo would suggest that there is no strong enough political leader who can settle for a compromise with Moscow. So, while Putin is still in power -- 2-3 years? -- Tokyo has to put its political house back in order under a strong leader. Is this likely? In my opinion, no. So, the territorial dispute will continue in the foreseeable future -- another lost opportunity! When Yeltsin was in power, the two countries came very close to a solution -- a 2+? solution. Meanwhile, I hope and believe that Russian-Japanese trade and economic relations will continue to expand, which is in both countries' interests.
In Response

by: Tsuneo Akaha from: California
July 09, 2012 06:54
There was an error in my statement. The fourth sentence," About Medvedev's second visit to the disputed islands, I should note that he -- or any other high-ranking Russian officials -- has visited the Habomais and Shikotan..." should have read, "About Medvedev's second visit to the disputed islands, I should note that he -- or any other high-ranking Russian officials -- has NOT visited the Habomais and Shikotan..."

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