If the “review” of the disputed Kuril Islands, known as the Northern Territories in Japan, was intended to strengthen Tokyo's unacceptable position concerning the disputed Southern Kuril Island, it cannot help positive relations between the two countries, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has noticed the 'review' of the Kuril Islands conducted by Japan's Foreign Minister, Koichiro Gemba, from aboard a patrol boat. We would like to know whether this step was intended to emphasize the importance of expanding mutually beneficial cooperation between the neighboring regions of Russia and Japan, thereby giving additional impetus to the progressive development of Russian-Japanese ties; this intention would be welcome,” the statement said.
“If the 'review' was intended to focus once again on Tokyo's well-known and unacceptable position on the sovereignty of Russian territories, it is unlikely to help strengthen the positive atmosphere of bilateral relations, which has improved in recent years,” the statement said.
Earlier, the Kyodo news agency reported that Japan's Foreign Minister, Koichiro Gemba, had reviewed the Kuril Islands from aboard a patrol boat, as well as from Hokkaido Island.
Japan's foreign ministers regularly review the islands, which Japan considers its territory, from Hokkaido Island. In 2010, former foreign minister Seiji Maehara made a tour of Russia's disputed Southern Kuril Islands in the Pacific Ocean.
In December 2010, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sparked a diplomatic row with Tokyo by visiting the South Kuril Islands. He later said Russia would increase its military presence there.