Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, arrived on Tuesday on an island off Russia’s eastern coast, triggering protests from Tokyo as the territory has been claimed by Japan since the end of World War Two.
The island belongs to an archipelago in Russia’s Far East, called the Southern Kuriles by the Russians and the Northern Territories by the Japanese. It is located some 7,000 kilometres from Moscow and only 15 kilometres from Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. The territory has been seized by the Soviet Union from Japan after the war.
The vice-minister for foreign affairs Kenichiro Sasae called the Russian ambassador Yevgenny Afanasiyev to complain of Medvedev’s visit.
“(This) is a territory inherent to Japan, therefore the visit of this kind is unacceptable for Japan and deeply regrettable,” Sasae told Afanasiyev.
Medvedev, on the other hand, told reporters before leaving for the island that “the islands of the Kuriles are … our territory which should develop just like the mainland of our country. […] We have to develop new investment projects including those with the participation of foreign firms,” he said.
Medvedev was the first Russian leader to visit the islands, in 2010, when he was Russia’s president.