Japan said on Tuesday it was recalling its ambassador to Moscow temporarily after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited a disputed island, raising the stakes in a territorial row.
Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan, struggling with a divided parliament and a fragile economy, has come under fire for what critics claim was his mishandling of a separate territorial dispute with China, and is under pressure to look firm this time, Reuters reports.
The Far East carries huge economic importance to Russia now because of its oil and gas reserves and transportation links to Asian markets, said Elgena V. Molodyakova, an expert on the region at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
"For us, the Kurile problem is how to develop the region," Ms. Molodyakova said. "For the Japanese, the Kurile problem is a territorial dispute that can agitate their society. If they take a hard line on this, they won't accomplish anything.", according to New York Times.