TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan's government came under fire Tuesday from local media over what was seen as its ineffective handling of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to a disputed island.
Medvedev infuriated Japan on Monday with a trip to the Kuril Islands, a remote territory at the heart of a decades-long row with Tokyo 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 into the island of Kunashir, on the first visit by a Russian leader to the disputed territory.
"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."
Japan is already locked in a bitter feud with China after it arrested a Chinese trawlerman whose boat collided with Japanese patrol boats in waters near a disputed island chain in the East China Sea in September.
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.
Medvedev's trip is likely to complicate ties ahead of his visit to Japan for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit this month, but analysts said it was a signal to Tokyo that Moscow is not willing to give up the islands.