TOKYO Kyodo has lodged a protest against Russia for suspending a safe fishing agreement that prevents Japanese fishing vessels from being seized by Russian authorities in the waters near disputed islands off Hokkaido, a government official said Wednesday.
Russia has suspended its 1998 agreement, citing Japan's freezing of payments for a development project in Sakhalin. The move comes amid friction between the two countries after Japan joined U.S. sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
"We regret that Russia unilaterally announced the suspension of the agreement," Hirokazu Matsuno, Chief Cabinet Secretary, said at a news conference.
The top government spokesman admitted that Japan had not made the latest payment for the project in the Russian Far East. He said the project is not a condition for continuing the agreement.
After a series of captures and shootings on fishing vessels by Russian authorities, the agreement covers waters around the Russian-controlled, Japan-claimed islands.
It is intended to allow Japan to fish Atka mackerel and octopus in exchange for paying cooperation money to the Russian side. Catch and operating conditions are determined by annual negotiations.
Moscow has announced it will halt decades-old negotiations on a post-war peace treaty with Japan after Japan punitive measures against Russia over Ukraine.
Japan claims that the Soviet Union illegally seized the islands after Japan surrendered in World War II in August 1945, while Moscow argues that the move was legitimate.