Russia calls Japan's island claims a "dead-end"

A Russian border guard takes aim on board a patrol boat off the island of Tanfilyeva, part of the Kurile Islands, referred to as the Northern Territories in Japanese in this August 2000 file picture. REUTERS/Yuri Maltsev

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia called Japan’s claims to a disputed Pacific island chain a “dead end” Thursday after Tokyo warned President Dmitry Medvedev against visiting the archipelago.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko’s remarks were a particularly strongly worded statement of Russia’s rejection of Japanese claims to the islands, which Moscow calls the South Kurils and Tokyo calls the Northern Territories.

“We consider it necessary to once again state that these islands are the territory of the Russian Federation,” Nesterenko told a weekly briefing. He said Japan should “avoid repeating dead-end positions” in statements about the islands.

Soviet troops occupied the string of islands northeast of Japan near the end of World War Two. The dispute has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from concluding a peace treaty and persisted as a source of tension despite diplomatic and economic ties.

On Russia’s Pacific Coast Wednesday, Medvedev said that bad weather had prevented him from traveling to the Kurils after a trip to China but vowed to visit the islands soon, pointedly calling them “an important region of our country.”

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara was quoted by Kyodo news agency as saying such a trip would “severely hurt bilateral ties.”

The Russian spokesman said it was Japan that risked harming relations with such warnings.

“The president of the Russian Federation independently determines the routes of his trips on the territory of his country,” Nesterenko said. “Any advice here is inappropriate and unacceptable.”

Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Alison Williams