MOSCOW, Feb. 15 (NsNewsWire) — Russia has the sovereign right to name islets of the disputed Pacific island group Southern Kurils, the Kremlin said Tuesday, defying Japan’s diplomatic protest.
Last week, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev approved a decision to name five unnamed islets after prominent Russian figures, reports Xinhua.
Japan and Russia are involved in a territorial row over the islands off Japan’s northern prefecture of Hokkaido, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia.
“We highly appreciate the new positive dynamics of Moscow-Tokyo relations. But still, the Kuril Islands are Russian territory,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said earlier Tuesday that the Russian action is “extremely regrettable” and Japan has lodged a protest through a diplomatic channel, Kyodo news agency reported.
The latest territorial row came ahead of the first round of Russia-Japan consultations on joint economic activities on the disputed islands in Tokyo in March.
During a December visit to Japan, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to start consultations on joint economic activities on the islands.
The decades-old territorial spat has prevented the two countries from signing a post-World War II peace treaty and hindered diplomatic and trade relations between the two countries.