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Sightseeing tour of Russian-held isles claimed by Japan to start this week

JIJI

A trial sightseeing tour for Japanese to Russian-held islands off Hokkaido that are claimed by Japan will start this week as part of a joint Tokyo-Moscow economic agreement that covers the disputed territories, government sources said Saturday.

The eight-day tour that begins in Hokkaido from Wednesday was arranged after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed a plan to hold such a tour at a summit in June.

Tokyo and Moscow have a territorial dispute over four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido — Shikotan Etorofu, Kunashiri and the Habomai islets.

The tourists will visit Kunashiri and Etorofu over the six days from Friday after first visiting eastern Hokkaido.

At present, visits to the islands by Japanese are limited to those made under frameworks agreed to by the two countries, such as trips by former island residents and their families to visit the graves of relatives.

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