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Former Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi denied Thursday that he suggested he backs the idea of Russia returning “three and a half” instead of all four of the islands off Hokkaido and apologized for the confusion.

“I did not make any comments suggesting that I personally think it is OK that 3 1/2 islands be returned to Japan (instead of four),” said Yachi, now a special government envoy, at the House of Councilors Budget Committee.

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