Delayed Tour To Russian - Held Islands May Go Ahead

Delayed tour to Russian-held islands may go ahead

Japan is making final arrangements with Russia to reschedule a postponed trial sightseeing tour to two of the four Russian-held islands claimed by Japan.

The tour for Japanese nationals would be the first of its kind. The Japanese government hopes the program will help promote Japan-Russia economic activities on the four islands and increase momentum toward the signing of a peace treaty.

The two countries are now preparing to carry out the six-day tour from October 29 through November 3. Its itinerary may include visits to scenic spots on Kunashiri and Etorofu islands.

More than 40 people, including tourists and government officials, are expected to take part.

The plan is to travel by the same ship former Japanese residents are allowed to use to return to the islands on visa-free visits.

But the tour may be scuppered by its timing. The seas between Japan and the islands often become rough around this time of year.

The tour was originally planned to start on October 11. But it was put on hold at Russia's request. The Russian Foreign Ministry didn't offer a reason for the postponement, citing only what it called a technical problem.

Japanese Foreign Ministry officials speculate that it took time for Russian authorities, including the military, to coordinate among themselves.

The Japanese government maintains the four islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory. It says the islands were illegally occupied after World War Two.