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Medvedev visits islands claimed by Japan

Medvedev visits islands claimed by Japan
Angering Japan, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev visited the disputed south Kuril Islands Monday. UPI Photo/Alex Volgin.. | License Photo

SOUTH KURIL ISLANDS, Russia, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Angering Japan, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev visited the disputed south Kuril Islands Monday.

The Soviet Union seized the four small islands north of Hokkaido from Japan at the end of World War II, and Japan has always demanded their return.

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Medvedev's visit is the first by a Russian president to the territory.

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maihara said his presence "injures the feelings of the population of Japan" and summoned the Russian ambassador to deliver a protest note, The New York Times reported.

Mikhail Margelov, head of the Russian Federation Council's international affairs committee, dismissed the protest as "absurd, to say the least."

Japan had warned Russia in September that such a visit would hurt relations.

The islands have few people but provide access to prize fisheries and promising oil and gas fields. Medvedev told residents Russia will invest heavily to raise living standards there.

"We want people to remain here," he said at one stop. "Development here is important. We will definitely be investing money here."

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