Foreign firms to enter disputed isles

Kyodo

Sakhalin Gov. Alexander Khoroshavin said Saturday that Chinese and South Korean companies will join infrastructure development and farming projects on Etorofu and Kunashiri, two of the four disputed islands off Hokkaido also claimed by Japan, according to local reports.

Khoroshavin was quoted as saying it is the first case of foreign businesses taking part in Russian government development projects on any of the disputed islands, which also include Shikotan and the Habomai islet group. Collectively, the islands are known in Japan as the Northern Territories, and in Russia as the Southern Kurils.

The move is likely to provoke a strong reaction from the Japanese government, which does not approve of any economic activity or investment by foreign companies in the area, which is controlled by the Russian government.

In Etorofu, a South Korean firm will join a 1.4-billion-ruble pier construction project, while a Chinese firm will participate in a farm production project in Kunashiri.

The names of the companies have not been revealed.

The Russian government has urged foreign businesses to invest in development projects in the four islands, while calling on Japan to jointly promote economic activities there. But Tokyo has refused in order to avoid any pretense of accepting Russia’s jurisdiction over the area. The disputed islands were seized by Soviet troops in the closing days of World War II.