Japan seeks to reach peace treaty with Russia on South Kurils: PM
The Japanese government regrets that Moscow and Tokyo did not sign the South Kuril Islands peace treaty.
The Japanese government considers the situation with Moscow and Tokyo not signing the peace treaty on the South Kuril Islands to be regrettable, and Japan is committed to resolving territorial issues and concluding a peace treaty, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Tuesday.
"The fact that 77 years after the end of the war, the issue of the Northern Territories has not been resolved and there is no peace treaty between Japan and Russia is extremely regrettable...The Japanese government is committed to resolving the territorial issue and concluding a peace treaty," Kishida said. However, the minister added that Japan would act in accordance with its national interests in matters pertaining to economic activities with Russia, such as fishing or shipping.
Japan is commemorating on Tuesday the day of the Northern Territories, which include the southern islands of the Kuril chain, which are now owned by Russia. It is observed annually on February 7, the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Shimoda with Russia in 1855, which ceded Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, and Habomai to Tokyo.
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The Soviet Union and Japan signed a joint declaration in 1956, in which Moscow agreed to consider transferring the Habomai and Shikotan islands to Japan after a peace treaty was signed. The document makes no mention of Kunashir or Iturup's fate.
The Soviet Union hoped that the Joint Declaration would end the dispute, whereas Japan saw it as only part of the solution and did not renounce its claims to all four islands.
Japan and Russia agreed to speed up negotiations on the peace treaty in 2018 on the basis of the 1956 Japanese-Soviet Joint Declaration.
It is worth noting that while Japan protests the visit of Russian officials to the islands, Russia fears the placement of US bases and missiles on the islands if they were to be handed to Tokyo.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced in March 2022 Moscow's refusal to continue negotiations with Tokyo on a peace treaty in light of sanctions imposed by Japan against Russia over Ukraine.
Russia also said it was walking away from the dialogue with Japan on joint economic activity on the South Kuril Islands, blocking the prolongation of Japan’s status as a sectoral dialogue partner of the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation.
Earlier last month, Japan's Prime Minister stated on January 23 that Tokyo will keep following its policy that aims at solving its territorial dispute with Moscow and signing a peace treaty.
"The situation in Japanese-Russian relations is difficult because of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine but Japan will continue to pursue its policy aimed at resolving the territorial dispute and signing a peace treaty," Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told the lower house of parliament.
The negotiations between Russia and Japan have been ongoing for decades now in order to achieve a peace agreement.