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Japanese delegation to visit two southern Kuril Islands

TOKYO, July 7 (RIA Novosti, Andrei Fesyun) - A Japanese delegation left Nemuro (northern Japan) Thursday to visit two southern Kuril Islands, Iturup and Kunashir, as part of a visa-free exchange program.

The delegation comprised 64 people including Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territory Affairs Yuriko Koike and elderly Japanese who lived on the islands before 1945, the Kyodo Tsushin agency reported.

The Soviet Union received the four Kuril Islands - Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai known as Northern Territories in Japan - after World War II. However, Japan has claimed the islands, making their return a condition of concluding a peace treaty with Russia.

Minister Koike said before her departure that she intended "to see the moods of Russian citizens living on the islands to promote the campaign for the islands' return."

The delegation will meet with representatives of the local administration and see an old Japanese post office on Iturup.

The delegation will return to Nemuro on July 11, Kyodo Tsushin said.

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