Russia’s Putin says he will visit disputed Kuril islands

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that he will definitely one day visit the Southern Kuril Islands which are at the centre of a dispute with Japan that has lasted since World War Two.

Soviet troops seized the four islands off Japan’s Hokkaido at the end of World War Two and they have remained in Moscow’s hands, preventing the two countries signing a peace treaty.

The islands are known by Japan as the Northern Territories.

At a meeting in the Russian Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk on Thursday, Putin was asked about Kunashir Island, which is one of the Southern Kurils.

Putin said that tourism should be developed on the islands.

“They say it is very interesting there,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin transcript. “I have never once been there, unfortunately – I will definitely go there.”

Located in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, the Kuril islands stretch for 1,250 km from the southern tip of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula southwards to the Japanese island of Hokkaido, forming a neat boundary between the Sea of Okhotsk to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Toby Chopra)