Some 7,500 Japanese nationals want to move to the Kuril Islands, disputed between Japan and Russia, Japan's Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara has said.
"Speaking about the four northern islands, historically Russians have never lived there, they were only inhabited by the Japanese," Maehara said in the interview with Ekho Moskvy radio, reaffirming Tokyo's claim for the islands.
A dispute over the islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan, has prevented Russia and Japan from signing a peace treaty to officially end World War Two hostilities. The islands were seized by Soviet forces at the end of the conflict.
The issue came to the fore again last November after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Kunashir, the second-largest of the four islands.
The Japanese foreign minister, who paid a visit to Russia on Friday amid the growing row over the Kuril Islands, said the postwar period in the Japanese-Russian relations will end only when the peace treaty is signed.
On Monday, Japan's Northern Territories Day, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan called Medvedev's recent visit to Kunashir an "inexcusable rudeness," sparking an angry reaction from Moscow.
Medvedev ordered on Wednesday the deployment of additional weapons on the islands, describing them as a "strategic region" of Russia. Maehara responded by saying that Tokyo's resolve "remains absolutely unwavering."
MOSCOW, February 12 (RIA Novosti)