MOSCOW, October 19 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Monday that a Japanese minister's recent statement on the territorial dispute over the Kuril islands was out of line with the Japanese leadership's aim of improving dialogue.
Japanese Transport Minister Seiji Maehara on Saturday said that his country should step up efforts to demand that Russia return the four southern islands of the Kuril chain to Japan. The islands were annexed by the Soviet Union after World War II.
"Clearly such statements not only damage the good-neighborly atmosphere that has been developing in bilateral relations... but also blatantly contradict the new Japanese leadership's declared urge for quiet and respectful dialogue on a peace treaty," the ministry said in a statement.
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last month that he wants to resolve the dispute with Russia, and conclude a peace agreement.
Hatoyama said that the issue must be resolved "in our generation in order to form new relations between Japan and Russia."
Tokyo's continued claim over the islands has so far prevented Russia and Japan from signing a formal peace treaty to end World War II hostilities.