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Japanese man seized by Russia for unauthorized visit to disputed island

(Xinhua)

09:37, August 23, 2011

TOKYO, Aug 22 (Xinhua) -- A Japanese national was captured by the Russian border patrol on Sunday for making an unauthorized visit to Kunashiri Island, one of the four disputed Russian-held islands, local media reported Monday.

The man, believed to be Keisuke Kuriyama, 37, was captured on an inflatable vessel in the waters north of Kunashiri and remanded in custody at Furukamappu, known as Yuzhno-Kurilsk in Russia, sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Speaking at a press conference earlier on Monday, State Foreign Secretary Yutaka Banno confirmed that Kuriyama was being held by Russian authorities and that they had communicated the infraction to the Japanese Consulate General in the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the administrative center of Sakhalin Oblast and formerly known as Vladimirovka and then Toyohara.

Banno added that the Japanese Foreign Ministry has urged the Russian side to swiftly release the Japanese detainee and expressed its regret to Moscow over the issue.

The Japanese government has repeatedly asked its nationals not to visit any of the Russian-held islands that Japan claims, even if they have acquired a Russian visa, as Japan believes doing so diminishes their claim of sovereignty over the islands.

Also bringing the ongoing territorial dispute to the fore, on Thursday a Japanese man aged 30 with a Russian visa sailed to the same island on a boat from Sakhalin Island with two other people for sightseeing, officials said. The trio were allegedly planning to stay for several days.

Kunashiri is one of a group of disputed islands called the Southern Kurils by the Russians and the Northern Territories by the Japanese.

The disputed isles -- which also include Etorofu, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group -- were seized by the Soviet Union following Japan's surrender in World War II and the territorial dispute since then has meant that the two countries have, as yet, failed to ink a peace agreement following the conclusion of the war.

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