Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Russia’s Far East Kuril Islands on Tuesday, some 18 months after his visit to the disputed territory sparked a diplomatic row between Moscow and Tokyo.
“Today, we planned with my colleagues, including ministers and deputy ministers, to visit the Kuril Islands…but the airport has been closed for several days because of weather so we’ll do it a bit later,” Medvedev said shortly before he set off for the Kurils.
He urged the members of the government to visit the Kurils as “it is an important part of the Russian territory.”
“We did it [visiting Kurils] before and this practice will definitely be continued by the new Cabinet,” the premier said.
Medvedev sparked a diplomatic row with Tokyo in November 2010 by making the first visit ever by a Russian leader to the Kuril Islands.
He later said Russia would increase its military presence there. Japan’s then-prime minister, Naoto Kan, called Medvedev’s visit an “inexcusable rudeness.”
Moscow has been offering Tokyo cooperation in the region under the condition that Japan drops its territorial dispute and focuses on developing Russian-Japanese economic ties.
Russia and Japan have yet to sign a formal peace treaty ending World War II hostilities, due to the dispute over the four South Kuril Islands, former Japanese territory annexed by the Soviet Union at the end of the war.
The territorial dispute over the islands, which Japan calls the Northern Territories, has clouded relations between Moscow and Tokyo for decades.