‘We do not agree’: Japan and Russia row over island chain in northern Pacific

The Kremlin has said it does not recognise Japan’s claim to a chain of islands between the two countries.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia disagreed with comments made by Japan’s new prime minister, Fumio Kishida, who claimed the nation’s sovereignty extended to the islands known by Tokyo as the Northern Territories and by Russia as the Kuril Islands.

“We do not agree with such a statement, Mr Peskov said.

“This is Russian territory, and Russia has repeatedly reaffirmed its political will on different levels to continue dialogue with Japan to find solutions to the sensitive issues that remain on the agenda.”

The territorial dispute over the islands dates back to when the Soviet Union seized them at the end of the Second World War.

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It has prevented Russia and Japan from signing a formal peace treaty.

Before that, the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan signed the Treaty of Shimoda in 1855, giving Japan the four southernmost islands and Russia everything to the north.

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Earlier this year, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin visited the islands and said the Kremlin was considering establishing a special economic zone there.

He visited a hospital and fish plant on Iturup, one of the four southernmost islands, and told plant workers the government was considering creating a special economic zone in which businesses and investors would be free from most taxes and customs duties.

It comes after Russia continued to build up its military presence on the islands by deploying a range of coastal missile systems in 2016.

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