Japan's Kishida vows to resume visits to graves on Russian-held islands

Japan's Prime Minister Kishida Fumio has reiterated that his government will continue making efforts to settle a territorial issue with Russia. He said the priority is to enable Japanese citizens to visit their ancestors' graves on Russian-held islands.

Kishida was speaking to reporters in Tokyo on Monday. Referring to the Russian presidential election, he said he must refrain from commenting on the result of an election held in a foreign country.

Kishida said that following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Japan's negotiations with the Kremlin, including talks on a peace treaty, have come to a standstill.

He emphasized Japan's unwavering commitment to resolving the territorial issue and concluding a peace treaty with Russia.

Kishida also said that in reality, Japan's top priority in Japan-Russia relations is the resumption of bilateral exchange programs. This includes a program that allows former residents of four Russian-held islands to visit their ancestors' graves.

Kishida added that Japan must urge Russia to agree to resume the programs, considering the advanced age of the former islanders and their strong desire to participate.

Russia controls the islands. Japan claims them. The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory. It says the islands were illegally occupied after World War Two.