Japan insists on its right to the Kuril Islands: Tokyo makes a statement
Japan continues to insist on its right to the Kuril Islands, which the USSR seized during World War II. Russia considers the disputed islands of Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan, and Habomai to be part of the Sakhalin Oblast, while the Japanese authorities include them in the Nemuro District of Hokkaido Prefecture.
Once again, the Secretary General of the Japanese government, Hirokazu Matsuno, announced the extension of Japan's sovereignty to these islands. The statement was quoted by Russian propagandists.
Since the end of World War II, no peace treaty has been signed between Japan and the USSR, and now the Russian Federation. The territorial affiliation of four islands in the Kuriles remains a stumbling block: Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan, and Habomai. Japan considers them occupied and has consistently asserted its sovereignty over these islands.
This was once again confirmed by the Secretary General of the Japanese government on November 14.
"The Northern Territories are islands subject to the sovereignty of our country, the original territory of our country. There are no changes in the position of the Japanese government. The subject of negotiations on a peace treaty is the territorial affiliation of the four islands - this is the consistent position of our country," Hirokazu Matsuno said during a media interview in Tokyo.
Five years ago, then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Singapore. During the talks, they discussed accelerating the negotiation process on a peace treaty based on the 1956 Joint Declaration, in which Moscow agreed to consider the possibility of transferring the Habomai and Shikotan islands to Japan. However, the transfer never took place.
Moreover, Japan insists on returning all the territories it considers occupied.
"According to the agreements reached in Singapore, as well as other earlier agreements, we have been negotiating hard on the basis of the course on the Northern Territories issue to resolve the territorial problem and conclude a peace treaty based on the agreements and documents reached between the two countries. Because of Russia's attack on Ukraine, it is not the right time to say anything concrete about peace treaty negotiations, but the government continues to hold the position of resolving the Northern Territories issue and concluding a peace treaty," Matsuno said.
The Kuril Islands (20 large and more than 30 small islands stretching 1,300 kilometers between Japan's Hokkaido and Russia's Kamchatka) are home to only about 20,000 people, most of whom come to work on a rotational basis. These people are practically cut off from the world: they can only travel to the "big land" by ferry, which goes to Sakhalin Island once a week. There are no flights because of the high cost. Communications on the islands are also poor: people have virtually no access to the Internet and mobile communications, and the total length of asphalt roads there is 13 km.
At the same time, there are huge reserves of hydrocarbons in the shelf of the Sea of Okhotsk, which is separated from the North Pacific by an archipelago of volcanic islands. And Russia, using the occupation of the Kuriles, has monopolized the exploitation of the Sea of Okhotsk basin, although until relatively recently its central part was international waters.
If Japan regains control of the islands, it will be able to extract hydrocarbons and use the resources of the Sea of Okhotsk.
In addition, Iturup Island has the third largest reserves of an extremely rare metal, rhenium, which is used in the production of rocketry and aircraft construction.
Soviet troops occupied the southern islands of the Kuril Islands, which had previously belonged to Japan, in 1945, and in 1946 the USSR unilaterally incorporated the Kuriles and South Sakhalin into its territory. The Japanese population living in these territories was deported to Hokkaido.
Japan has not recognized Russia's sovereignty over these islands and considers them its own. The USSR, and later Russia, which declared itself the successor of the Union, believes that the islands allegedly belong to it on the basis of agreements between the Allies during World War II.
Almost 80 years after the end of World War II, a peace treaty between Japan and Russia was never signed. And Russia is blocking the resolution of the dispute in international courts. Tokyo's negotiations with Moscow, both under Boris Yeltsin and Putin, also proved fruitless.
At the same time, the Kuriles have no social significance for Russia. The aggressor state views them solely as a military and political object. For example, in 2017, the Russian Federation deployed an additional army division there, which caused a protest from Japan.
When Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Japan vigorously defended its right to the islands. On February 28, 2022, Tokyo stated that Russia was occupying the southern part of the Kuril Islands, which was a gross violation of international law as much as the aggression against Ukraine.
On October 7, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine recognized the Kuril Islands as occupied by Russia.
Earlier, it was reported that Japan would help Ukraine demine fields in the liberated territories and provide assistance to the agricultural sector of our country. In addition, Japan and Ukraine have certain cooperation agreements to restore the war-affected territories of our country.
In addition, it has been reported that Japan will provide Ukraine with 24 cranes for demining the frontline and de-occupied territories. Also, our country has already received macro-financial assistance from the country in the amount of 2.1 billion dollars.