Japan, Russia Inching Closer to Sign the Peace Treaty
IndraStra Global

Japan, Russia Inching Closer to Sign the Peace Treaty

By IndraStra Global News Team

Image Attribute: The four islands of Southern Kurils /Northern Territories (in Yellow) / Source: Google Maps

Image Attribute: The four islands of Southern Kurils /Northern Territories (in Yellow) / Source: Google Maps

On January 1, 2019,  the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe pledged to step up talks with Russia to conclude a postwar 1956 Japan-Soviet peace declaration.

Earlier in November 2018, the Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his view at a news conference in Singapore — the day after he and Prime Minister Abe met on the sidelines of the 33rd summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and agreed to accelerate the negotiations but his comments neither mentions a basis for returning Shikotan and Habomai nor clarifies which country has sovereignty over the islands. His comments imply that it is not certain that Moscow intends to return even the two small islands to Japanese rule which equals only 7% of the four islands' total. 

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"As we are at a major turning point, we will aggressively pursue the resolution of Japan’s postwar diplomatic concerns," Abe said in a New Year’s statement on the Radio Nippon broadcast, referring to peace treaty talks with Russia – the two nations are still technically at war, due to the ongoing territorial dispute making an agreement impossible. President Putin "has a strong determination to sign a peace treaty," Abe said. But, Putin is insistent that no American troops to be permitted to use the islands in near future after the handover, could drive a "wedge" between Japan and the U.S. His intention was conveyed to Japanese officials by Nikolai Patrushev, an aide to Putin and secretary of the country's Security Council, when he visited Japan in early October. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also made a similar demand of Katsutoshi Kawano when the top official in the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) visited Russia in October, Japanese government officials said.

All the four islands - which Russia calls the Southern Kuril islands and Japan calls the Northern Territories - stretches north across the Pacific Ocean from the Japanese island of Hokkaido to the southern tip of Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. The Soviet Union seized the territories at the end of the World War II, expelling all 17,000 Japanese residents. However, Under Article 9 of the declaration, the Soviet Union agreed to hand over Shikotan and Habomai as a gesture of good will after the peace treaty is ultimately signed. The declaration was ratified by the two countries’ parliaments in December 1956. However in response to Japan’s signing a security treaty with the United States in 1960, the Soviet Union revoked its liabilities concerning the transfer of the islands. The Soviet government said back then that the islands would be handed over to Japan only when all foreign forces were withdrawn from its territory.

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According to the latest media reports, Abe is likely to pay a visit to Moscow on January 21, 2019, to hold talks with Putin to conclude the treaty at earliest. However, the further progress on the same may get stalled if Japan continues with its demand of two other islands - Kunashir (known in Japanese as Kunashiri) and Iturup (Etorofu) - which make up the majority of the territory in dispute. And secondly, if Japan fails to take U.S' approval on Russia's preconditions.

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With reporting by Nikkei Asian Review, Radio Nippon and South China Morning Post