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Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Friday he plans to take a two-day trip to Hokkaido on Saturday to view the Russian-held islands off its coast from the air.

Edano, who doubles as minister in charge of issues pertaining to the dispute, said in a news conference he also plans to talk with local residents, including former islanders.

“The (dispute) is not only an issue for former islanders,” the top government spokesman said. “I’ll raise awareness that all people in Japan should take this issue as their own.”

The long-running territorial dispute reignited recently when top Russian officials, including President Dmitry Medvedev, started visiting the islands last year, defying Japanese calls to avoid doing so. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Naoto Kan even described Medvedev’s trip to one of them as an “unforgivable outrage.”

Japan and Russia have long been at odds over the sovereignty of the islands — Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group — since the Soviet Union seized them after Japan’s World War II surrender.

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