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    BEIJING, Feb. 8 (Xinhuanet) — The dispute over four islands known as the Northern Territories in Japan, and the Southern Kurils in Russia, have long been a sticking point in relations between the two nations. Japan is reiterating its call for Russia to return the territory.

    In Tokyo, Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan led a large rally demanding the return of four islands.

    He called the recent visit by Russia's president Dmitry Medvedev an outrage and vowed Japan will not back down from its claim.

    Naoto Kan, Japanese Prime Minister, said, "I hope that the campaign to return the Northern Territories to Japan will be strongly promoted nationwide, and I ask for this campaign to become a powerful driving force in negotiating with Russia."

    Hundreds of former Japanese residents of the islands also attended the rally that has been held annually since 1981.

    Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov condemned Japan's demands. And Russia's position on its own claim to the islands appears to be getting more assertive.

    Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, said, "We are always ready, and we stated this more than once, to closely cooperate with our Japanese neighbours in implementing specific projects in these regions of the Russian Federation."

    Last November, Medvedev became the first Russian leader to visit the islands.

    Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov inspected military garrisons on the islands last week, and said Moscow is planning to upgrade the troops' weapons there.

    Japan's foreign minister is scheduled to visit Moscow from Thursday. The islands dispute is likely to be at the top of his agenda.

    (Source: CNTV.cn)


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