Japanese-Russian ties at peak level: PM Abe
TOKYO: The development of Japanese-Russian relations has reached unprecedented heights over the past year due to implementing joint economic projects in the Southern Kuril Islands, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said during the debate in the parliament on Wednesday. “Over the past year, the development of relations between Japan and Russia on the basis of agreements in Nagato [during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Japan in 2016 – TASS] reached an unprecedented level,” Abe said answering a question of Yukio Edano, leader of the opposition’s Constitutional Democratic Party.
As an example, Abe cited launching the first tour to the Southern Kuril Islands for Japanese tourists and also allowing access to the islands for Japanese citizens, who used to reside there. “We will continue persistent talks in order to solve the territorial issue and sign a peace treaty,” the prime minister said. Russia and Japan have been in talks to sign a peace treaty since the mid-20th century. The main stumbling block to achieving this is the ownership issue over the Southern Kuril Islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan.
After the end of World War II, the Kuril Islands were incorporated into the Soviet Union.
However, the ownership of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan Islands and the Habomai Islands has been challenged by Japan. The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly said that Russia’s sovereignty over these islands, which is committed to paper in international documents, cannot be called in question.
In November 2018, Putin and Abe held a meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Singapore and agreed that the two countries would accelerate the pace of the peace negotiations based on the 1956 Joint Declaration. The declaration ended the state of war and said that the Soviet government was ready to hand Shikotan Island and a group of small islands called Habomai over to Japan on condition that Tokyo would take control of them once a peace treaty was signed. In May 2019, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov highlighted that the document clearly said that the border issue could be only considered after signing a peace treaty.