Japan warned against recognizing the South Kuriles as “occupied”

Tokyo’s statements about the “occupation” of the South Kuriles put an end to the truce between Russia and Japan. This statement was made by a senior political scientist at the American research center RAND Jeffrey Hornung.

“The 2022 Diplomatic Blue Book of the Japanese Foreign Ministry describes the four islands as “illegally occupied by Russia” <…> Along with the official withdrawal of the Russian Federation from all peace negotiations with Japan due to its unfriendly position, this means that there is no hope to a peace treaty,” he explained to Diplomat.

Now, according to the expert, Japan “has lost all leverage” on Moscow. The consequences could turn out to be very unpleasant, especially if, against the backdrop of economic isolation and sanctions pressure, Russia begins to actively move closer to China.

On April 22, for the first time since 2003, Japan designated the South Kuriles as “illegally occupied” by Russia. This wording is indicated in the Blue Book on Diplomacy, which records important milestones in the country’s foreign policy activities.

In addition, the preface to the book quotes the words of Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, who said that the dialogue on a peace treaty between Japan and Russia “is not at a stage where one can talk about prospects.”

In response, Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs Dzhabarov suggested that members of the Japanese administration recall the Act of Unconditional Surrender of Japan of 1945 in response to the designation of the South Kuriles as “illegally occupied.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stressed that the four islands of the southern part of the Kuriles are an inalienable territory of the Russian Federation.

In turn, Dmitry Streltsov, head of the Department of Oriental Studies at MGIMO, told Izvestia that the Japanese side made such a statement about the islands due to increased tensions, as well as against the background of Tokyo joining anti-Russian sanctions. According to him, Tokyo thus “freed itself” from the need to be politically correct in relations with Moscow.

On March 21, the Russian Federation refused to negotiate a peace treaty with Japan. As a response to Tokyo’s actions, the Russian side stopped visa-free trips of the Japanese to the South Kuriles and withdrew from the dialogue with Japan on establishing joint economic activities in these territories. In addition, Russia is blocking the extension of Japan’s status as a partner of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation in the sectoral dialogue.

At the same time, the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said that the unfriendly policy of the Japanese side towards Russia is the reason for the impossibility of discussing the signing of a peace treaty between the countries.

As a result of World War II, Russia and Japan never signed a peace treaty. The main snag in reaching agreements is Tokyo’s claims to the South Kuriles. Japan still calls the islands of Kunashir, Iturup and a number of territories of the Lesser Kuril ridge its northern territories, although as a result of World War II they passed to the USSR.

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