- Title: JAPAN/FILE: Protesters in Tokyo call for return of disputed islands from Russia
- Date: 8th February 2011
- Summary: UNIDENTIFIED LOCATION, DISPUTED ISLANDS (ORIGINALLY 4:3) (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF ISLANDS RUSSIANS CALL 'SOUTHERN KURILES' AND JAPANESE CALL 'NORTHERN TERRITORIES'
- Embargoed: 23rd February 2011 12:00
- Location: Japan, Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVABLKTO0ADB7JJGLBNI5MBHCL54
- Story Text: Japan demands return of disputed islands from Russia after heightened tensions in wake of Russian President's visit.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan reiterated calls on Monday (February 8) for Russia to return territory that Japan claims as its own while protesters took to the street to claim what they said was theirs.
Right wing activists, in vehicles covered in patriotic slogans and Japanese rising sun flags, showed up in force in Tokyo to call for the return of four islands from Russia.
While demonstrations have been held annually, ties between Russia and Tokyo have been especially strained after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Kunahsir Island also known as Kunashirito, one of the string of islands last November.
"From the Russian side, President Medvedev himself already descended on Iturup Island last year. Not only is Russia practically occupying the island, but they have been forcefully conducting military exercises even prior to this incident. The Japanese side just keeps on saying it is regretful over and over again," said 63 year-old protester Michiko Fudeyasu.
His trip to the islands -- called the Southern Kuriles in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan -- caused Tokyo to recall its ambassador for consultations.
The Soviet Union occupied the four islands at the end of the war and the territorial row has weighed on ties between Tokyo and Moscow ever since, precluding a formal peace treaty.
Japan's government also holds a rally every year on February 7, when in 1855 Japan and Russia signed a friendship treaty which, defining the borders between the two nations, recognized the Kuril Islands as Japanese territory, nearly 1700 kilometres (1057 miles) north from Tokyo.
"I hope that the campaign to return the Northern Territories to Japan will be strongly promoted nationwide, and I ask for this campaign to become a powerful driving force to negotiate with Russia," Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said during a meeting to demand the return of the islands.
The long-pending row over the sovereignty of the Islands has prevented Japan and Russia from formally ending war hostilities.
The sparsely populated islands are in the Kuril chain between Japan's northern island of Hokkaido and Russia's far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula, with the closest just 15 km (9 miles) from Hokkaido.
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