The governor of Russia’s Sakhalin region, Igor Farkhutdinov, said he plans to propose that the central government ban fishing by foreign boats in waters around Russian-held islands claimed by Japan, Sakhalin Radio reported Tuesday.

His comments came after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi sent a protest letter Monday to Russian President Vladimir Putin over an ongoing fishing row in which Moscow has been allowing other countries to fish for saury in the waters off islands that Japan claims near Hokkaido.

Japan claims the area around the islands is within its exclusive economic zone.

Russia has maintained that its fishing arrangements with other countries are purely commercial in nature and have nothing to do with its territorial dispute with Japan.

But Japan maintains the agreements threaten to undermine its diplomatic position in the dispute.

Farkhutdinov said he is ready to align himself with the Japanese prime minister, but not because Japan claims rights to the islands, called the Southern Kurils by Russia and the Northern Territories by Japan, according to Sakhalin Radio, monitored by Radiopress.

The governor said instead that it is time to stop non-Russian vessels from sailing in the waters.

The Sakhalin government has jurisdiction over the islands.

The fishing row stems from an agreement reached between Russia and South Korea last December, under which South Korea is allowed to fish for saury in waters near the islands. Moscow has struck a similar deal with North Korea.

The dispute over ownership of the islands — Etorofu, Kunashiri and Shikotan islands and the Habomai group of islets — has prevented Japan and Russia from concluding a peace treaty. Soviet troops seized the islands after Japan surrendered in World War II.

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