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UPDATED: 08:14, August 26, 2004
Japanese PM to visit Russia-held northern islands
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Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is expected to pay a visit in September to the Russia-held northern islands without landing, Kyodo News reported Wednesday.

"I am considering the trip, how to realize it including" by ship, but "Landing is impossible," Koizumi said at his office.

The islands, known in Japan as Kunashiri, Etorofu and Shikotan, and the Habomai islet group and as the Southern Kurils in Russia,

are located near the Hokkaido Prefecture and were taken by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II.

Japan has been claiming the sovereignty of the islands and pressuring for a return. The issue remains as the centerpiece to prevent Japan and Russia from reaching a peace treaty.

The late Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki and former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori both saw the islands from the air in their respective trips in 1981 and 2001.

The fresh trip is aimed at reinvigorating territorial negotiations with Moscow before Russian President Vladimir Putin's expected visit next February, Kyodo quoted Japanese officials as saying.

The Japanese government decided last month to put as priority the settlement of the disputed islands in the negotiation for a peace treaty, turning away from a downplaying stance as the two were ratcheting up economic activities.

Source: Agencies

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