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China calls on Russia, Japan to handle territorial row properly

BEIJING, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Thursday called on Russia and Japan to properly handle their recent dispute over the sovereignty of the Southern Kuril Islands in the Pacific.

"The issue regarding the four northern islands is a bilateral issue between Russia and Japan, and we hope the two sides will properly handle the issue through talks," spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told a regular press conference.

When responding to a question, Ma said he was unaware of any joint investment between China and Russia in the four islands.

Earlier in the day, spokesman Yao Jian of the Ministry of Commerce also said he didn't know whether any Chinese enterprises intended to invest in the four islands.

Russia and Japan have long been at odds over the sovereignty of the Southern Kuril Islands.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Kunashiri Island in November, becoming the first Russian leader to travel to any of the disputed islands. Japan temporarily recalled its ambassador from Moscow to protest Medvedev's visit.

Last Friday, Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Satoru Sato said at a press conference that Japan rejected Russia's invitation to any third country to invest in the islands. 

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