Russia’s PM dismisses Japan fury at Kuril trip


Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev Thursday dismissed Japan’s anger at his latest trip to the disputed Kuril Islands and urged other ministers to regularly visit the remote region.
“As for our Japanese partners’ reaction — I do not care,” Medvedev said in comments carried by the government’s official website.
“I care so little about it that I do not even want to spend time answering your question,” Medvedev was quoted as saying to reporters during the closing stages of his trip to Russia’s Far East.
“Why? Because why would we discuss the presence of the head of the Russian government on Russian territory,” Medvedev demanded.
Japan expressed “extreme regret” on Tuesday over Medvedev’s decision to tour the biggest of the four islands that were seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II.
Medvedev had already opened deep wounds in Japan in November 2010 when he payed a surprise trip to the archipelago while still serving as president — the first by a Russian head of state.
The neighbours’ trade relations have suffered because of the dispute despite Japan’s need for Russian energy and potential interest in helping to develop its struggling Far East.
Medvedev warned during his latest visit that ceding territory to Tokyo would lead to the disintegration of the Russian state and urged other ministers to pay more attention to neighbouring regions and the distant chain.
“All government members must be here regularly in order to delve into its problems,” Medvedev said.
Tokyo claims the archipelago’s four southernmost islands and still formally refers to them as the Northern Territories.
Russia in February 2011 announced plans to boost military defences on the Kurils and has since aired plans to station at least one of its most modern helicopter carriers off its shores.