Tokyo: Japan said Tuesday it will recall its ambassador to Moscow, heightening a long-standing row with Russia over four remote Pacific islands following a visit there by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said he wanted information from the ambassador following Medvedev`s visit to one of the Kuril Islands on Monday, which Tokyo condemned as "very regrettable".
"I decided to recall ambassador to Russia (Masaharu) Kono temporarily," Maehara told reporters.
The Kuril Islands, which lie north of Japan`s Hokkaido island, have been controlled by Moscow since they were seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II, but Tokyo claims the southernmost four as Japanese territory.
The feud is another headache for Prime Minister Naoto Kan, whose government has been embroiled in Japan`s worst diplomatic spat for years with China, over disputed islets in the East China Sea.
Medvedev infuriated Japan on Monday with the first ever trip by a Russian leader to one of the four islands at the heart of the dispute that has prevented the signing of a post-war peace treaty between the two nations.
Japan summoned Russia`s ambassador to Tokyo after Medvedev flew in to the island of Kunashir, known as Kunashiri in Japan for a brief four-hour trip, where he inspected several sites and chatted with local residents.
However, Tokyo said earlier that Kan was still likely to meet Medvedev when he visits Japan for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum summit on November 13-14.
"I believe the bilateral meeting will be held," chief government spokesman Yoshito Sengoku said
Kan`s centre-left government came under fire at home over its handling of Medvedev`s visit and the long-running dispute.
"The Russian side took advantage of the confusion of Japanese diplomacy under the DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan) government and made a preventive move against Japan`s demand for the return of the four islands," the mass circulation Yomiuri Shimbun said in an editorial.
The business daily Nikkei echoed the sentiment.
"It`s undeniable that Russia exploited a lack of philosophy in Japanese diplomacy as the Japanese government gave a shameless performance over the collision incident with a Chinese fishing boat."