Tokyo: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday criticised his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev`s weekend visit to disputed islands, aggravating a long-running dispute over the archipelago.
The visit "conflicts with Japan`s position and hurts the feelings of the Japanese people. It is extremely regrettable," Abe told a parliamentary panel when asked about the trip.
Abe`s first comments on the visit come after the Russian prime minister on Saturday arrived in Iturup, one of four in the Kuril island chain that lies off Russia`s far eastern coast and just north of Japan.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida immediately summoned Russia`s ambassador to Japan in protest at the visit to the islands, which Japan calls the Northern Territories.
The visit has also led to Kishida postponing a planned trip to Russia in the next few weeks, local reports said, citing government sources.
Kishida had been expected to prepare the ground for Russian President Vladimir Putin to make a long-delayed visit to Japan this year to seek a breakthrough in the 70-year-old territorial dispute.
Soviet troops seized the islands just after Japan surrendered in World War II.
The seven-decade-old dispute has hampered trade and prevented Moscow and Tokyo from signing a formal post-war peace treaty.
"What is significant for our country`s national interests is to solve the territorial issue of the Northern Territories and sign the peace treaty," Abe said Monday.