Japan recognises Kosovo

TOKYO - Japan on Tuesday became the latest country to recognise Kosovo, despite a flare-up in violence a month after the territory declared independence from Serbia.

"We hope Kosovo will contribute to regional stability in the long term," Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said.

But he added: "Serbia and Japan have traditionally been friendly. We hope the friendly ties with Serbia will continue."

Japan had earlier signalled it would recognise Kosovo but did not not want to take a high profile on the politically sensitive dispute.

Japan's recognition came as the worst violence flared in Kosovo since its independence declaration on February 17.

More than 100 people were injured Monday after UN police stormed a court occupied by Serbs opposed to independence and met gunfire and suspected grenade blasts.

Kosovo is overwhelmingly Albanian but Serbs consider it a cradle of their civilisation. The territory had been under UN administration since 1999 when NATO intervened to stop Belgrade's crackdown on separatists.

The United States, Turkey and many Western countries including the four most powerful European Union states -- Britain, France, Germany and Italy -- have backed Kosovo's independence.

But Serbia has vowed never to accept Kosovo's independence. Its position enjoys support from Russia, Serbia's traditional ally, and China, which is in the midst of a crackdown against protests in Tibet.

oh/sct/mtp

03/18/2008 03:38 GMT

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