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Longtime Japanese-Russian feud over islands

Longtime Japanese-Russian feud over islands reaches new diplomatic low

An isolated chain of resource-rich, Russian-held islands are at the center of an ongoing diplomatic dispute that recently has hurt relations between Japan and Russia.

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By John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times
February 14, 2011

Reporting from Tokyo —
They're a chain of windswept, resource-rich Russian-held islands much closer to Tokyo than to Moscow, and they're at the center of a festering diplomatic row that in recent days has soured relations between Japan and Russia.

An irate Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan last week pressed home the decades-long dispute, calling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's November visit to the islands over which both nations assert sovereignty an "unforgivable outrage."

On Friday, at a hastily arranged Moscow news conference involving the two sides, the Russian government fired back — with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov bluntly accusing Japanese officials of their own brand of unacceptable behavior.

With Japanese counterpart Seiji Maehara nearby, Lavrov then went a step further, saying the Kremlin wanted Chinese, South Korean and even Japanese investment in the islands, which have been in Russian hands since the end of World War II.

A visibly upset Maehara said investments from "a third country" would "complicate the situation." Calling the islands "indigenous territories of Japan," he also dismissed Russia's call for a committee of historians to weigh in on the dispute.

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