The ministry reminded Tokyo that the status of the Southern Kuril Islands – called Northern Territories in Japan – was stipulated by the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty that handed over the control of four islands to Russia.
The statement came after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed earlier on Saturday to reclaim the islands, and also conclude a long-overdue treaty with Russia. Russia and Japan failed to strike a post-WWII peace deal over the island row.
Abe was speaking in Tokyo during Northern Territories Day celebrations. The day was declared back in 1981 to honor the signing of the Treaty of Shimoda between Russia and Japan in 1855 that gave the island chain to Japan. After World War II, the sovereignty over the Southern Kuril Islands was passed to the Soviet Union.
"With all due respect to the historic significance of the Shimoda treaty, this document is unrelated to the matter at hand," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.
A 1956 joint declaration between the two nations linked a bilateral peace treaty to the handover of the four islands to Japan. Almost 60 years after, the agreement is still up in the air and the island row shows no signs of abating.