Japan lodged a protest with Russia after its President Vladimir Putin sent a video message to celebrate the opening of a new seafood processing factory on the disputed Shikotan Island, a government official said Friday.
Putin's message, sent shortly before he met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Vladivostok on Thursday to discuss a postwar peace treaty, was seen as flaunting Russia's ongoing control of the island, which Japan claims along with three others lying off Hokkaido.
The head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Russia Division, Tetsuji Miyamoto, on Thursday told a counselor at the Russian Embassy in Tokyo by phone that the move is "incompatible with Japan's stance," according to the official.
The islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia, were seized by the Soviet Union after Japan's defeat in World War II.
Tokyo argues the seizure was illegal and has demanded the islands be returned. The dispute has prevented the countries from signing a formal peace treaty more than seven decades on.
While Abe and Putin agreed last year to step up negotiations for a treaty, Russia has recently hardened its stance on the issue, last month sending Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to visit the largest of the islands, Etorofu.
In their meeting on the fringes of a regional economic forum, Abe and Putin agreed to continue "future-oriented" talks but did not make significant headway.
Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kotaro Nogami said Abe reiterated the country's stance regarding the islands, without giving further details.
Before returning to Tokyo on Friday, Abe met with Japanese business leaders and expressed satisfaction with progress in the economic cooperation plan between Japan and Russia that began in 2016.
Abe said the start of flights by Japan's two major airlines connecting Narita airport and Vladivostok next spring would "bring the Russian Far East closer."
He also met with Gianni Infantino, president of the International Federation of Association Football, or FIFA, the governing body of world soccer.© KYODO