Former Residents Rally For Return Of Islands

Former residents rally for return of islands

Former Japanese residents of four Russian-held islands claimed by Japan have held a rally in Tokyo and pledged to continue calling for the return of the islands.

About 500 former residents gathered in Hibiya Park on Sunday. December 1 is the day a Hokkaido city mayor submitted a petition for returning the four islands to Japan in 1945, shortly after the end of World War Two.

The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory. It says they were illegally occupied after the war.

Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs Minister Seiichi Eto said the government will continue to enhance public awareness, promote projects with Russia and support the former residents.

Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki said he strongly hopes the islands will be swiftly returned.

A representative of a group of former residents, Mitsugu Toko, said they will continue making their demands to achieve an early settlement of the issue.

Another representative, Hirotoshi Kawata, noted that the former residents are becoming old and there is a pressing need for a settlement.

The group's leader, Kimio Waki, said the negotiations over the islands are making slow progress, and they need to pass on their activities to the next generation.

The participants later marched around Tokyo Station while chanting their demands.