Russia accuses Japan of whipping up tensions in islands dispute

Moscow (AFP) –


Russia on Wednesday accused Japan of whipping up tensions ahead of a planned visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for talks with President Vladimir Putin on formally ending World War II hostilities.

Russia and Japan have never signed a peace treaty due to their territorial dispute over four islands invaded by the Soviet Union in the final days of the war.

Russia calls the islands the Kurils and Japan calls them its Northern Territories.

Russia's foreign ministry said it had invited Japanese Ambassador Toyohisa Kozuki and told him it viewed recent statements by Tokyo as "an attempt to artificially stir up the atmosphere" over the issue of the peace treaty.

The ministry cited statements about the need to prepare residents for the islands' handover to Japan and about dropping a demand for Russia to pay compensation to the islands' former Japanese residents, as well as Abe saying that 2019 would bring a breakthrough over the peace treaty.

"Such statements flagrantly distort the essence of the agreements between Japanese and Russian leaders to accelerate the talks progress" and "disorientate" members of the public in both countries, the ministry said.

It said Japan was attempting to "force its own scenario" on Russia of how the talks could resolve the issue of the peace treaty.

Russia's position on the Kurils remains unchanged that Japan must accept the outcome of World War II including Russia's sovereignty over the disputed islands, the ministry stressed.

Russia has military bases on the archipelago and has deployed missile systems on the islands.

The angry statement came as Abe is set to visit Russia around January 21 for talks with Putin on the peace treaty, according to Russian news agencies.

Putin and Abe last met in November and agreed to accelerate talks to formally end World War II hostilities, taking a Soviet-era joint declaration as their starting point.