Japan suspends visits to Russian-held isles

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Northern territories off Hokkaido

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The Japanese government said Tuesday that it suspends an exchange program allowing visa-free visits by Japanese citizens to the four disputed Russian-held islands in the northwestern Pacific for fiscal 2022.

“Against our will, we have decided to suspend the program for the time being,” the Foreign Ministry said, given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Japanese-claimed islands were seized by the former Soviet Union toward the end of World War II. The dispute prevents Tokyo and Moscow from concluding a World War II peace treaty.

The program allows Japanese citizens to make visa-free travel to the islands and former residents of the islands to visit the graves of their ancestors there.

However, exchanges under the program have not been conducted since fiscal 2020 because of the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Last month, the Russian government announced a suspension of the program in retaliation for Tokyo’s sanctions against Moscow.