RUSSIA HANDS OVER FISHERMAN'S BODY AFTER
August 18, 2006
TOKYO (Reuters) - Russia
on Saturday handed over the body of a Japanese fisherman killed when one of its patrol boats shot at a crabbing vessel in
disputed waters between the two countries, the Japanese foreign ministry said.
Russia has expressed regret over Wednesday's incident, which was the first fatality in the decades-old territorial dispute
in 50 years, but blamed the death on the Japanese side for intruding into Russian waters.
A Japanese foreign ministry
official was accompanying the body of Mitsuhiro Morita, 35, to a Japanese coast guard vessel docked on Kunashiri island for
the return journey to Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, the foreign ministry said
in a statement.
She also held a brief meeting
with the three surviving members of the fishing boat's crew, who have been detained since the shooting. A senior Japanese
official said on Friday after talks in Moscow that Russia had promised to make "maximum effort" to free the three.
A Russian prosecutor on
the island of Sakhalin
has said only the Japanese captain will be charged with illegally fishing and entering Russian waters, Kyodo news agency said.
Japan and Russia
both claim sovereignty over four islands, known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuriles in Russia.
The islands are currently controlled by Russia.
The feud has prevented the
two countries from signing a peace treaty more than 60 years after the end of World War Two.
The four islands, as close
as 15 km (9 miles) from Hokkaido, were seized by the Soviet Union
in the waning days of World War Two, forcing about 17,000 Japanese residents to flee.
Russia has said it is willing to hand over two islands, but Japan insists that all four must be returned.
Fishing disputes are common
in the area and Russian border patrols often try to capture Japanes fishermen. But the last time a Japanese fisherman was
shot dead was in October 1956 by a Soviet vessel, Japanese officials said.