Reports: Russian says he swam to Japan, wants asylum

Reports and officials say a Russian man from a Russian-held island claimed by both Tokyo and Moscow is seeking asylum after being found in a wetsuit on Japan’s northern main island of Hokkaido

The man was found in the town of Shibetsu on the coast of Hokkaido across from Kunashiri island, one of four Russian-held islands claimed by both countries, Japanese media said. He said he swam about 20 kilometers (12 miles) to Hokkaido to seek asylum, the reports said.

The immigration office declined to provide his identity and other details, including how he arrived in Hokkaido.

Japan claims the four islands, which it calls the Northern Territories. The Soviet Union seized them in the final days of World War II, and the dispute has kept the countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their war hostilities.

Decades of diplomatic efforts to negotiate a settlement haven’t produced any tangible results.

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This article corrects the spelling of the island to Kunashiri instead of Kuhashiri.

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