Japan protests to Russia after man held on disputed island

AP News
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Posted: Aug 22, 2016 6:02 AM

TOKYO (AP) — Japan has protested to Moscow over the detention of a Japanese man visiting one of the disputed islands between the two countries.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday, however, the man's situation would not affect a planned meeting in September between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The man was a translator for a Japanese group on a visa-free visit to Kunashiri, or Kunashir, island — part of the Kuril island group controlled by Russia and claimed by Japan. The man was stopped Sunday for undisclosed reasons after a baggage check, while his tour companions had returned to Nemuro on Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido.

Suga said the detention of a visa-free visitor on the Japan-claimed island is "extremely regrettable" and that he hoped the man was released as soon as possible.

Abe has been pushing for progress in the dispute over the Russian-held islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the southern Kurils in Russia. The row has kept the two countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their WWII hostilities.

Russia is barred from the G-7 because of its annexation of Crimea in 2014, shelving Putin's Japan visit for nearly two years. Abe wants to arrange Putin's visit to Japan later this year.