Russia threatens travel restrictions for Japanese officials to disputed islands

MOSCOW (REUTERS) - Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that it will ban visa-free travel for Japanese officials to the disputed Kurile islands if Japan continues to make statements assuming ownership of the islands.

The two countries have been involved in a decades-old dispute over islands north of Hokkaido, known as Kurile in Russia and referred to as the Northern Territories in Japan.

"If for some reason Japanese politicians cannot refrain from making public statements on the subject of the islands after a visit to Russian territory, we reserve the right to limit their participation in such trips," the ministry said in a statement.