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November 17, 2010 (KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI) — Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said on Wednesday that a possible visit to the disputed Kuril Islands, called the Northern Territories by Japan, deserved careful consideration.
“Given how important the prime minister’s visit [to the islands] is, it must be considered seriously. At the moment I do not have any concrete plans,” Kan said in a speech to the Japanese parliament.
Earlier this month, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev aggravated a long-standing dispute over four of the islands, by becoming the first Russian or Soviet leader to visit one of them.
Both countries have laid claims to the islands since they were occupied by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II and the dispute has prevented them from signing a peace treaty to formally end wartime hostilities.
The Japanese premier reiterated Japan’s stance on the status of the islands.
“Japan’s principal position that the Northern Territories are part of our country and that the territorial dispute must be resolved through the signing of a peace treaty, has not changed,” he said.
Last week Medvedev met with Kan during the APEC summit in the Japanese city of Yokohama. Medvedev invited Kan to visit “any part of Russia, including the Far East.”
Kan said he “wanted to develop friendly relations between Russia and Japan on a basis of trust, as between two partners.”
TOKYO, November 17