• Kyodo News

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The Lower House adopted a bill Thursday emphasizing Japanese sovereignty over the four Russian-controlled islands off Hokkaido, calling them an “integral part” of Japan.

The bill to amend a decades-old law intended to accelerate the diplomatic push to regain Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group now looks set to clear the Diet this session.

The Lower House passed the bill unanimously. It stipulates that Japan will “make utmost efforts to realize the early return of the islands, which are an integral part of our country.”

The bill aims for more visa-free exchange programs between Russian residents of the islands and former Japanese residents and their families.

The amendment is apparently aimed at raising public awareness of the territorial dispute ahead of a Japan-Russia summit on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit next month in Italy.

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