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Russia Talks Tough In Dispute With Japan

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) and his Japanese counterpart Seiji Maehara at a meeting in Moscow.
The Russian foreign minister greeted his visiting Japanese counterpart today with defiant statements amid a spat between the two countries over disputed islands in the Pacific.

As he opened talks in Moscow, Sergei Lavrov told Seiji Maehara that his visit came amid "a series of completely unacceptable actions."

He was referring to a statement earlier by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who called a trip in November to the islands by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev an "unforgivable outrage."

After the talks, Lavrov told Maehara that what he called Japan's "radical" stance would threaten bilateral dialogue. "When radical approaches regarding the issue of a peace treaty with Russia take the upper hand in Japan -- and that happens periodically," Lavrov said. "It becomes pointless to conduct a dialogue on the issue."

Lavrov said Moscow would pump more money into the Kuriles and has invited investors from other nations, including South Korea and China, to follow suit.

Maehara responded that Japan would strongly object.

The Kurile islands were taken by Soviet forces at the end of World War II and claimed by Japan. The dispute has prevented the two nations from signing a formal peace treaty.

compiled from agency reports