Officials shrug off doubts over Putin visit

Top government officials downplayed on Monday a Russian diplomat’s reported warning that President Vladimir Putin might cancel a visit to Tokyo due to fallout from Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s trip last week to view the disputed Russian-held islands.

The officials said Moscow has made no official comment on the matter.

According to a Russian newspaper report, the unnamed high-ranking Russian diplomat in Tokyo said Putin’s expected February visit could be politically difficult because of Koizumi’s trip Thursday to view the four islands off Hokkaido claimed by Japan.

The islands have been at the center of a long territorial dispute.

Koizumi’s trip was widely seen as a political gesture to arouse the Japanese public’s awareness of the territorial row.

“I’ve haven’t heard anything about that,” Koizumi told reporters Monday afternoon when asked about the reported remarks regarding Putin’s visit.

“Japan still plans to go ahead with preparing for President Putin’s visit to Tokyo,” he said.