14:10 GMT +314 November 2019
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    A picture taken on December 12, 2016 shows the town of Kurilsk on the island of Iturup

    Tokyo Voices Protests Over Visit of Russian Officials to Southern Kuril Islands

    © AFP 2019 / ANDREY KOVALENKO
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    TOKYO (Sputnik) - The Japanese government issued a protest to Russia over the visit of several Russian officials, including Special Presidential Representative for Environmental Protection, Ecology and Transport Sergei Ivanov, to the disputed Southern Kuril Islands, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday.

    "The Japanese side lodged a protest over the fact that if it is true, then it is incompatible with the basic position of [our] country," Suga told reporters.

    READ MORE: Over 88% of Japanese Sceptical That Kurils Dispute to be Solved Under Abe — Poll

    Japan will continue negotiations on concluding a peace treaty and solving the territorial issue with Russia, Suga added.

    Ivanov has already held multiple visits to the Kuril Islands, triggering Japan's protests in 2011 and 2014. His most recent visit started late last week.

    On Tuesday, the Russian official ruled out that Russia could transfer the Kuril Islands to Japan for the sake of a peace treaty.

    Oleg Morozov, a member of the Russian upper house's International Affairs Committee, believes that such protests only complicate the negotiation process on the peace treaty with Moscow.

    "This is more than more than funny. The special representative of the president has the right to visit both in his personal and official capacity any place in the territory of Russia. There is not a single legal act that would exclude the Southern Kurils from the Russian territory… Japan complicates its relations with Russia by such actions. Territorial claims expressed in this form are ridiculous," Morozov told Sputnik.

    Russian-Japanese relations have long been strained due the fact that the two nations never signed a permanent peace treaty after the end of World War II. The deal was never reached because of a disagreement over a group of four islands — Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai — that Russia has sovereignty over, but that are also claimed by Japan.

    Since Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Japan in December 2016, the relationship between the two nations has been improving, with the two sides agreeing to develop joint projects on the disputed territories.

    During the peace treaty talks with his Japanese counterpart in January, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that the sides had confirmed their willingness to work on the basis of the 1956 declaration, "which means, first of all, the inalterability of… Japan’s complete recognition of… Russia’s sovereignty over all the islands of the South Kuril ridge."

    Related:

    Russia-Japan Peace Treaty Talks Will Not Affect Kurils Residents - Kremlin
    Japanese PM Vows on Father's Grave to Make a Deal With Russia on Kurils
    Tokyo Has No Plans to Displace Russians From Kurils If Gets Islands - Abe
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