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Japan PM cancels European tour, but will visit Russia Apr. 25 - 2

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TOKYO, April 16 (RIA Novosti) - Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has canceled his European tour planned for this month over tensions with the opposition-dominated upper house of parliament, but will visit Russia on April 25, an official said on Wednesday.

Fukuda planned to visit Britain, France and Germany ahead of the Group of Eight summit to be hosted by Japan in July.

Fukuda's government has been criticized for introducing a new health insurance system for the elderly, designed to reduce the burden on younger people. The new arrangements sparked discontent among pensioners and the opposition called for early general elections.

Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said the delay in the European trip was due to a tight parliamentary schedule.

In Russia, Fukuda is expected to meet with outgoing president Vladimir Putin and president-elect Dmitry Medvedev at talks to address a range of bilateral and international issues, including a long-running territorial dispute.

The dispute over the South Kuril Islands, known in Japan as the Northern Territories, which were annexed by the Soviet Union after World War II, has prevented the two countries from signing a formal peace treaty.

Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura suggested at talks in Moscow on Monday continuing dialogue on the issue and holding a Russian-Japanese summit before the G8 this summer.

"The [unofficial] visit will be part of arrangements for a G8 summit, following an agreement reached by the Russian and Japanese foreign ministers on April 14 for the two countries' leaders to meet ahead of the [G8] Hokkaido Toyako summit in July," the Japanese embassy to Moscow said in a statement.

A Kremlin spokesman said Fukuda would arrive for a 'working meeting' at Putin's invitation.

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