© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A general view shows Kunashir Island, one of four islands known as the South Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Maltsev/File Photo
(Reuters) – Russia said on Sunday it would not hold annual talks with Japan on renewing a pact that allows Japanese fishermen to work near disputed islands, saying Japan had taken anti-Russian measures.
The islands, near the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, are known in Russia as the Kuriles and in Japan as the Northern Territories and have been at the heart of decades of tension between the neighbors.
“In the context of anti-Russian measures taken by the Japanese government… the Russian side has informed Tokyo that it cannot agree to hold intergovernmental consultations on the implementation of this agreement,” state news agency RIA reported, citing the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Japan, a major US ally, imposed sanctions on dozens of Russian individuals and organizations shortly after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24 last year.
On Friday, he tightened sanctions on Russia in response to Russian airstrikes on Ukrainian cities.
In June, Russia suspended a 1998 agreement that allowed Japanese ships to fish near the islands, and Japan’s chief cabinet secretary said at a press conference on Monday that Japan would demand that Russia join annual talks before they can begin this year’s fishing.
But the Russian ministry said there would be no improvement in relations unless Japan showed “respect”.
“In order to return to normal dialogue, Japan’s neighbors should show basic respect for our country, the desire to improve bilateral relations,” the ministry said, according to the RIA news agency.
Russia and Japan did not officially end hostilities in World War II due to disagreements over islands captured by the Soviet Union at the end of the war.