18:31 GMT22 April 2021
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    TOKYO (Sputnik) - Former residents of what Japan calls its "occupied northern territories" rallied in Tokyo on 1 December to demand that Russia give back the four disputed islands it calls Southern Kurils, the NHK broadcaster reported.

    Hundreds gathered in a park to mark the day when a mayor from Japan’s northernmost Hokkaido island petitioned for the handover of the islets shortly after WWII ended, the NHK broadcaster said.

    The Japanese outlet cited a former settler, Hirotoshi Kawata, who said that island residents were getting old and a solution needed to be found fast.

    The contested islands – known as Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan and the Habomai in Russia — are located off the southern tip of Russia’s the Kamchatka Peninsula.

    The Kuril Islands are a chain of islands stretching through the Okhotsk Sea between Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula and Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido. The four islands closest to Japan have been a point of contention between Russia and Japan since the end of WWII, when the two nations did not sign the peace treaty because each claimed sovereignty over the disputed territories.

    Russia insists that the islands were transferred to the Soviet Union after the end of the Second World War and have been an integral part of Russia ever since. Japan maintains that the four islands still belong to Japan under the 1855 Treaty of Shimoda which placed them under Japanese rule.

    The long-standing territorial dispute has been a major setback for Russian-Japanese economic and political cooperation.

    South Kuril Islands, Kuril Islands, handover, rally, islands, Japan, Russia
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