Russia defense chief visits disputed islands

TOKYO — Russia's defense minister on Friday began an inspection tour of military facilities on disputed islands also claimed by Japan, prompting a sharp protest from Tokyo, officials and reports said.
Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov arrived in the southern Kuril islands to inspect a machine gun and artillery division and check on troops' combat readiness and living conditions, Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency said.
Japan's Foreign Ministry said it confirmed that Serdyukov had arrived on the islands and lodged a protest with Moscow's ambassador in Tokyo that called the trip "extremely regrettable."
The group of four islands are called the Northern Territories by Japan, and the dispute over their ownership has prevented Tokyo and Moscow from signing a peace treaty formally ending their hostilities from World War II.