TOKYO — Japan's foreign minister said Moscow has no legal right to occupy several disputed islands that have kept their two countries at odds for decades, despite Russia's increasingly assertive stance.
Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said Japan stands by its claim to the islands in the southern Kuril chain that were occupied in the closing days of World War II by the Soviet army. He was speaking before flying to Moscow on Thursday to discuss economic development and the deepening territory dispute.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Thursday that Japan is closely watching Russian military activity in the region.
The dispute over the islands has kept the two nations from signing a peace treaty to formally end their World War II hostilities.