Japan has issued diplomatic protests to both the United States and Russia over a U.S. firm’s plan to build a power plant on one of the islands at the center of a long-standing territorial row between Tokyo and Moscow, the Japanese foreign minister said Wednesday.
“It is incompatible with Japan’s position and extremely regrettable for a third country to be engaging in economic activities on the four islands,” Taro Kono said in response to a question at a parliamentary committee session.
Russian media reported last month that Sakhalin Gov. Oleg Kozhemyako, who administers the contested isles, had announced an agreement with Caterpillar Inc. to build a diesel power plant on the island of Shikotan. The company makes electric power generation systems as well as construction machinery.
Shikotan is part of the chain of islands off Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido held by Russia but claimed by Japan.
Called the Northern Territories by Japan and the Southern Kurils by Russia, the isles were seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. The dispute over their sovereignty has kept Japan and Russia from concluding a postwar peace treaty.
“Unless we resolve the issue of the Northern Territories, problems like these cannot be fundamentally settled,” Kono said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to visit Russia next month to seek progress with President Vladimir Putin on plans for bilateral economic projects on the islands. The Abe administration hopes the joint projects could eventually lead to a settlement on the islands’ sovereignty.