The leadership of the opposition Japan Innovation Party (Nippon Ishin no Kai), whose former member earlier called for consultations on seizing the Southern Kuril Islands, has visited the Russian Embassy in Tokyo to personally apologize to the ambassador for the incident.
The delegation included the party’s Secretary-General Nobuyuki Baba and Co-President Toranosuke Katayama among others. The Russian side deems such statements unacceptable, the Russian ambassador emphasized, saying that the apologies were taken into account, TASS reports.
"We presume that Russian-Japanese relations are developing stably due to the dialogue between the leaders of our countries and in accordance with the will of both peoples. We believe that such actions as statements from the above individual cannot ruin our ties," Russian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin said.
According to Japan’s NHK public television, the leadership of Nippon Ishin no Kai regrets the remarks from its former member Hodaka Maruyama and hopes that the apologies will be relayed to Moscow. "Statements by Mr. Maruyama by no means reflect the way our party thinks or its attitude towards Russia. We hope this position will be conveyed to Moscow," Baba told Japanese journalists after his meeting with the Russian envoy.
Hodaka Maruyama was ousted from the party on May 14. Earlier on Friday, six of Japan’s opposition parties had decided to submit a resolution jointly calling for the expulsion of MP Maruyama for his proposition to seize the Kuril Islands.
Over the past weekend, MP Maruyama accompanied a group of former residents of Southern Kuril Islands on their trip to Kunashir within the framework of visa-free trips. At a dinner on the way back, he publicly urged the delegation to speak in favor of seizing these territories, saying he wouldn’t want to use the word "war" in that context. Reports said that the legislator was intoxicated at the time.
The Japanese lawmaker has already apologized for his remarks and requested to be expelled from the party. The Japanese government has condemned his behavior. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, in particular, that such statements were regrettable, while the problem of the Southern Kuril Islands could only be solved diplomatically.
Moscow and Tokyo have been in talks to sign a peace treaty since the mid-20th century. The main stumbling block to achieving this goal is the contention over the ownership of the Southern Kuril Islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan. After the end of World War II, the Kuril Islands were incorporated into the Soviet Union. However, the ownership of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and the Habomai Islands has been challenged by Japan.