Tokyo’s stance on Medvedev’s visit to the Kurils “unacceptable demarche”
Moscow has called Tokyo’s reaction to President Dmitry Medvedev’s trip to one of the Kuril Islands an “unacceptable demarche”. Japan’s ambassador to Russia will be summoned to the Foreign Ministry over the issue.
“The reaction of the Japanese side to the visit of President Medvedev to the Kurils is unacceptable,” Russia’s top diplomat, Sergey Lavrov stated on Monday, according to Interfax news agency. “This is our land and the Russian president visited Russian land," he added, commenting on the statements by Japanese officials.“The Japanese Ambassador to Russia will be summoned to the Foreign Ministry today and we will confirm our stance once again clearly and unequivocally," Lavrov said. According to the minister, the Japanese side “must draw conclusions for itself, of course". However, he went on, “such demarches on its part are unacceptable". Sergey Lavrov added that Moscow is not going to take any steps that would hamper cooperation with Japan.On Monday, Dmitry Medvedev arrived on a working visit to Kunashir – one of the four disputed islands in the archipelago. Russia considers the Southern Kurils part of its soil. Japan claims Kunashir, Shikotan, the Khabomai Rocks and Iturup – known as the Northern Territories by the Japanese – part of its territory.Medvedev’s trip to the Kurils was purely about the social-economic development of the region rather than thorny international issues. Earlier, commenting on the trip, Lavrov stressed that the president’s travels around Russia are a home policy issue."I am responsible for foreign policy, while the Kuril Islands are part of Russian territory and belong to the domain of home policy. The president plans his domestic travels himself," Lavrov said.However, across the Far Eastern border, in Tokyo, Medvedev’s visit to Kunashir sparked fierce criticism. Earlier on Monday, the Japanese Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador to the country, Mikhail Bely, to hand over a note of protest. Premier Naoto Kan dubbed the trip “very regrettable” and Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara stated that the visit “hurts the feelings of the Japanese population”. While on his trip to Kunashir, Medvedev visited several construction sites, enterprises, a geothermal station and a new kindergarten and even had tea with a local family."We want people to remain here. Development here is important. We will definitely be investing money here," Medvedev told the hosts, cited Interfax. The president is quite confident that the living conditions on the Kurils will soon be similar to those in Central Russia. As for the demographic situation in the region, which has been rather poor since the ‘90s when people fled the Kurils, Medvedev said: “That depends on us.” According to the president, if authorities manage to provide normal living conditions, people will start arriving.Medvedev, who has lately been pushing for the implementation of energy efficiency measures, was rather pleased with the development of the energy sector on the Kurils. While visiting a geothermal power plant on the outskirts of the town of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, he said it was “an absolute alternative and the right one for this place.” Konstantin Butakov, the chief of the local power engineering company, noted to Medvedev that energy produced by the geothermal plant is a lot cheaper compared to diesel power plants."This is small-scale power engineering and the energy efficiency that we are talking about," Medvedev pointed out.Currently, people living on the Kurils can watch only four TV channels. However, the president promised that as soon as digital equipment for TV broadcasting is set up, 20 channels will be available. Mobile communications will also be established soon.One of the region’s major problems is its distant location, which, for instance, makes it rather difficult for the local fishing industry to sell their products to customers on the continent. The construction of a new pier complex on Shikotan is set to help to improve the situation. Bureaucracy is yet another barrier that hampers development. Medvedev promised to address that issue as well.Natalia Makarova, RT