TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan warned Moscow on Wednesday against more visits to rocky islands claimed by both countries, Kyodo news agency reported, after Russia’s president stopped off in one of the isles this week, sparking a diplomatic row.
“We have conveyed our position that the Northern Territories are Japanese territory. We would like them to act accordingly,” Kyodo quoted Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara as telling reporters.
Maehara was speaking at a meeting with Japan’s ambassador to Moscow, who was temporarily recalled for consultations following President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to one of the islands, the first such visit by a Kremlin leader.
Russia dismissed the warning, which came after Russia said that Medvedev planned more trips to islands seized by the Soviet Union from Japan at the end of World War Two.
“We don’t need any advice on this matter,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow. “This is our land. The Russian president does not take advice from anyone when he chooses which Russian region he will visit.”
The dispute has added to the pressure on Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who is grappling with a divided parliament and is already under fire for what critics say was his mishandling of a separate territorial dispute with China.
Maehara told reporters that the Japanese ambassador’s return home was not a retaliatory measure and said he still hoped to meet his Russian counterpart on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit in Japan next week.
“I want to have discussions in the context of building cooperative ties,” he said.
Reporting by Linda Sieg and Yoko Kubota in Tokyo and Conor Humphries in Moscow; Editing by Daniel Magnowski