Japan’s top government spokesman on Tuesday expressed his displeasure over a high-ranking Russian official’s Twitter posting in which he used a word for ritual suicide once practiced in Japan after Tokyo criticized the Russian prime minister’s visit to a disputed island.
“I was surprised. The remarks are unproductive and I do not feel like making any comment,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference, referring to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin’s remarks.
Apparently commenting on Tokyo’s protest over Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s trip last Saturday to Etorofu Island, one of the Russian-controlled, Japanese-claimed islands off Hokkaido, Rogozin wrote on Twitter, “If they were real men, following tradition they would commit hara-kiri (ritual suicide) and calm down at last. All they’re doing is making noise.”
Rogozin posted his comments as Medvedev’s trip reignited tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over the long-standing territorial dispute.
Etorofu, together with Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai group of islets, are known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia.
The islands were seized by Soviet forces following Japan’s surrender in World War II in 1945, and the ensuing territorial dispute has prevented the two countries from ever concluding a postwar peace treaty.
The visit also came at a sensitive time for the two countries as they are making preparations for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Japan later this year.
Despite appeals by Japan not to do so, Medvedev visited Etorofu, called Iturup in Russia. Japan has lodged a protest with Russia over the visit.
While Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told a separate news conference that Japan wants Russia to take “constructive steps,” Shunichi Yamaguchi, the Cabinet minister in charge of affairs concerning the disputed islands, criticized Medvedev’s trip as “extremely regrettable.”