NEMURO, Hokkaido (Kyodo) Seiji Maehara, state minister in charge of the Northern Territories — as the government calls four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido claimed by Japan — said Saturday that Tokyo should keep demanding their return from Russia’s “illegal occupation.”

“Historically, the Northern Territories are an integral part of Japan. It is literally an illegal occupation (by Russia) and Japan should keep saying so,” Maehara told reporters after viewing the islands from a Japan Coast Guard vessel.

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