Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has provoked an angry reaction from Japan by landing on a remote island whose ownership Tokyo disputes.
The trip to Kunashir was part of a Kremlin initiative to boost investment in Russia’s Far East ahead of an Asia Pacific Cooperation summit in Vladivostok in September.
The premier vowed to locals to keep the region Russian.
“This is our native land, we will not give away an inch. Why should we? The one who gives away even a small part of his land usually provokes a thunderstorm, this all ends with a collapse of the state, it is a very dangerous thing,” Medvedev told a worker on the island.
Kunashir is part of what Russia calls the ‘Kuril Islands’, seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. Japan calls them the ‘Northern Territories’.
Japn’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Osamu Fujimura called Medvedev’s visit “unacceptable”.
“When talking about this in terms of Japan-Russia relations, a visit by a Russian dignitary to the Northern territories is something that conflicts with our own stance regarding them and Russia should be well aware of this,” he warned.
The row over the islands’ ownership has weighed on diplomatic relations between the two countries eversince the end of hostilities in 1945. The dispute has precluded the signing of a formal peace treaty.