Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called Russia's decision to drop out of peace treaty talks over disputed islands "unacceptable" on Tuesday. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
SEOUL, March 22 (UPI) -- Japanese officials on Tuesday called Russia's decision to drop out of peace talks over islands that have been in dispute since World War II "unacceptable" and issued a complaint to the Russian ambassador to Japan.
Moscow announced Monday that it would no longer continue discussions around the four islands near Hokkaido due to Tokyo's sanctions in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The islands, which Russia calls the Kurils and Japan calls the Northernmost Territories, were seized by the Soviets at the end of World War II and have remained a source of contention ever since. The countries have never signed a peace treaty officially declaring an end to hostilities because of the unresolved issue.
Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement that it was ending treaty discussions because Japan "holds an explicitly unfriendly position and seeks to harm the interests of our country."
Moscow also said it will also suspend all joint economic activities around the islands and will no longer allow Japanese former residents to visit without a visa.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday that the situation is "rooted exclusively on Russia's invasion of Ukraine," according to The Asahi Shimbun.
"It is extremely inappropriate for Russia to try to pass that off onto the Japan-Russia relationship and absolutely cannot be accepted," Kishida said. "Japan strongly protests [the move]."
Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi also called Moscow's withdrawal "extremely unjust on the part of Russia and unacceptable."
He said at a press briefing that Vice Foreign Minister Shigeo Yamada summoned Russian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin and conveyed Tokyo's displeasure.
Japan has joined Western countries in leveling heavy sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, targeting Russian banks and oligarchs and revoking the country's most favored nation trade status. Tokyo has also sent $100 million in humanitarian aid and shipped helmets and bulletproof vests to Ukraine in an increasingly assertive role on the world stage.
Russia has sailed numerous warships through waters near Japan in recent weeks, a show of force that has drawn concern and protests from the Japanese military.