Japan recalls envoy to Moscow over islands row

November 2, 2010

By Yoko Nishikawa

(Reuters) - Japan said on Tuesday it was recalling its ambassador to Moscow temporarily after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited a disputed island, raising the stakes in a territorial row.

Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan, struggling with a divided parliament and a fragile economy, has come under fire for what critics claim was his mishandling of a separate territorial dispute with China, and is under pressure to look firm this time.

“We have a territorial problem and that needs to be solved,” Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara told a news conference at which he announced the envoy’s temporary recall.

“But our basic policy of concluding a peace treaty with Russia and strengthening economic relations once that problem is settled remains unchanged,” he added. The dispute prevented Russia and Japan signing a peace treaty ending World War Two.

Medvedev made a brief visit on Monday to one of four island outposts seized by Russia from Japan at the end of the war.

Japan’s top government spokesman said earlier that leaders from Japan and Russia were still likely to hold talks at a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) on November 13-14, although Maehara said nothing had been decided.

Strained relations between Japan and China have raised concerns about the fallout for business given deep economic ties between Asia’s top two economies.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who last week urged both Beijing and Tokyo to be calm and offered to host trilateral talks to bring relations back to an even keel, said the offer still stood, though they could discuss other issues as well.

To read more, visit: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6A107G20101102

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