Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sparked a high-profile Russian-Japanese diplomatic row after visiting the disputed Kunashir Island on Monday, according to RIA Novosti.
Prior to the visit, Japan voiced its concerns saying the arrival of the Russian leader could complicate bilateral relations, but Russia`s Foreign Ministry rejected Tokyo`s attempts to change Medvedev`s plans saying he "defines the routes of trips across his country on his own."
The visit was the first trip by a head of state of Russia or the former Soviet Union to the South Kuril Islands.
Soon after landing on Kunashir Island, Medevedev uploaded on his Twitter account a photograph of Kunashir`s landscape made by him with the note: "There are so many picturesque places in Russia. Kunashir."
Tokyo`s continued claim over four South Kuril Islands (Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, and Habomai) to the northeast of Japan has so far prevented Russia and Japan from signing a peace treaty to end World War II hostilities. The islands were annexed by the Soviet Union after World War II.
JAPANESE ENVOY RECALL
Reacting on Medevedev`s visit to Kunashir, Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara made the announcement to temporarily recall the ambassador to Russia, Masaharu Kono.
Japan`s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku did not say whether the envoy would return to Moscow.
"I neither deny nor confirm this," Sengoku said.
On Monday, Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara summoned Russian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Bely to provide explanations on what Japan called a "regrettable" move by the Russian president that "hurt the Japanese people`s sentiments."
The United States has backed Japan in its claim over the disputed islands and has pushed for both countries to come to a compromise.
"We are quite aware of the dispute. We do back Japan regarding the Northern Territories. The United States for a number of years has encouraged Japan and Russia to negotiate an actual peace treaty, regarding these and other issues," Philip Crowley, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, told a daily press briefing on Monday.
China called for a resolution through dialogue on the Russian-Japanese territorial dispute.
Relations between Tokyo and Beijing have also been strained by a territorial dispute over islands in the South China Sea.
RUSSIAN-JAPANESE APEC TALKS PUT AT STAKE
The talks between Medvedev and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan at the upcoming APEC summit November 13-14 in Yokohama were thrown into question after the Russian president`s visit to the disputed island.
A Kremlin source said the issue of Russian-Japanese bilateral talks was being settled.
"We see no obstacles to the meeting with the Japanese prime minister [as a part of the talks]," the source said.
Japan`s Sengoku said that the meeting between the two leaders was likely to take place at the APEC summit.