Japan angered by Russian President’s visit to Kuril Islands
(2 November 2010)
Following the recent visit of Russian President Dmitri A. Medvedev to the disputed Kuril Islands (also known by Japan as the Northern Territories) Japan has recalled its ambassador to Moscow. Medvedev visited the second largest of the four southern islands, Kunashir (Japanese: Kunashiri), and discussed plans for future development of the region. There are significant fishing resources surrounding the islands, and reported oil and gas fields, situated between the northern tip of Japan’s Hokkaido island, and the southern point of Russia's Kamchatka peninsula.
At the close of World War II, the Soviet Union seized the island chain from Japan, removing the 17,000 existing Japanese that were living on the islands. Japan maintains claims to the four southernmost islands of the Kuril chain, which are presently occupied by approximately 20,000 people. Previously Russia had offered to sell two of the four islands to Japan, but Japan refused the offer.
Source: ‘Japan recalls envoy to Russia over islands dispute’, Ellen Barry, New York Times, November 2 2010; ‘Kuril islands dispute between Russian and Japan’, BBC News, November 1 2010