Jan 29 (Reuters) – Russia said on Sunday it will not hold annual talks with Japan on renewing a pact that allows Japanese fishermen to operate near disputed islands, saying Japan has taken anti-Russian measures.
The islands, off the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, are known in Russia as the Kurils and in Japan as the Northern Territories and have been at the core of decades of tension between the neighbours.
“In the context of the anti-Russian measures taken by the Japanese government … the Russian side informed Tokyo that it could not agree on the holding of intergovernmental consultations on the implementation of this agreement,” the RIA state news agency reported, citing Russia’s foreign ministry.
Japan, a major U.S. ally, imposed sanctions on dozens of Russian individuals and organisations soon after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year.
On Friday, it tightened sanctions on Russia in response to Russian air attacks on Ukrainian cities.
Russia in June suspended the 1998 agreement that allowed Japanese boats to fish near the islands and Japan’s chief cabinet secretary on Monday told a news conference that Japan would demand that Russia engages in the annual talks so this year’s fishing operations could begin.
But the Russian ministry said there would be no improvement in ties unless Japan showed “respect”.
“To return to a normal dialogue, the Japanese neighbours should show elementary respect for our country, a desire to improve bilateral relations,” the ministry said, according to the RIA news agency.
Russia and Japan have not formally ended World War Two hostilities because of their standoff over the islands, seized by the Soviet Union at the end of the war.
Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by Robert Birsel
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