In the run up to the July 7-9 G8 summit on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, the Japanese press has been drawing international attention to the long-running territorial dispute, claiming Japan's right to the group of islands it calls the Northern Territories.
"The fundamental position of the Russian Federation is that the South Kuril Islands became part of our country as a result of the WWII and Russia's sovereignty over them, which has a corresponding international legalization, is unquestionable," Andrei Nesterenko said.
He said, however, that Russia recognizes the border dispute and is ready to continue "the patient and quiet search for a solution that would be acceptable to the people of Russia and Japan."
The lower part of the chain of Pacific islands stretching from the Kamchatka Peninsula on the Russian mainland to the north-east coast of Japan's Hokkaido island was annexed by the Soviet Union after World War II and the dispute has prevented the two countries from signing a formal peace agreement.
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New ties between Russia and Japan would mark not only a breakthrough in their relations but also a significant shift in Northeast Asia’s political dynamic. Both are secondary players in a region overshadowed by an increasingly assertive China, which has not hesitated to push against the boundaries of its neighbors.