May 20, 2022
Former Japanese residents on the Russian-controlled, Japan-claimed islands off Hokkaido may be required to obtain visas in future travel to the islets when they visit their families’ graves there, a senior official at Russia’s foreign ministry has said.
The possible change in the existing program, which allows them to travel to the islands without visas for that purpose, comes as tensions mount between the two countries over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Japanese government is unlikely to accept such a change as it means admitting Russia’s sovereignty over the islets.
The visa-free visits have long been allowed through a special arrangement between the two countries although they were canceled the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Russia said in March it will suspend negotiations, including on the territorial dispute, for a postwar peace treaty with Japan after Tokyo joined the United States and Europe in condemning the invasion of Ukraine.
On peace treaty talks, Nozdrev…added that Russia cannot engage in negotiations with a country that “overtly poses a threat to our country.”
The islands are called the Northern Territories by Japan and the Southern Kurils by Russia.