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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 08:15 GMT
Russian anger over Kuril pledge
Russia has reacted angrily to a renewed pledge by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, to press for the return of the disputed Russian-held Kuril islands.

The four islands, which lie off Japan's northern Hokkaido island, were seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II.

They put themselves politically and territorially at the winner's mercy

Dmitry Rogozin
The head of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee, Dmitry Rogozin, said Japan had to remember it signed an "unconditional surrender" at the end of the war.

He said Russia could block any negotiations on the islands - which Japan refers to as the Northern Territories - by ratifying a post-war treaty ceding them to the then Soviet Union.

"It's hard for me to understand the Japanese mentality but surely they must remember they lost the war and signed an unconditional surrender," said Mr Rogozin.

"They put themselves politically and territorially at the winner's mercy."

Koizumi's pledge

On Thursday Japan's Mr Koizumi said Japan would continue to ask for the return of the islands.

"There is no change in our policy that Russia should make it clear that the four islands belong to Japan," said he said at an annual rally.

"We should not become impatient. We must negotiate with Russia with tenacity. We should not give up our hope," he told the 1,600-strong crowd.

The rally is held on the anniversary of the signing of an 1855 friendship treaty under which Moscow recognised Tokyo's sovereignty over the islands.

Recently-appointed Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi held talks on the issue last week in Tokyo with her Russian counterparty Igor Ivanov - the first full talks at that level since Mr Koizumi took office last year.

They agreed to hold a bilateral vice foreign ministerial meeting in Moscow in March. It could pave the way for an official visit to Moscow by Mr Koizumi this year.

Tokyo and Moscow set up diplomatic relations in 1956, but have yet to sign a formal peace treaty to end the war.

See also:

31 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
South Korean fishing boats challenge Japan
05 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Kuril islands dispute deadlocked
04 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Putin rejects Kuril agreement with Japan
12 Nov 98 | Asia-Pacific
Relations thaw over Kuril Islands
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