Japan, Russia to hold talks on territorial dispute on Aug 19

TOKYO —

Japan and Russia will hold talks in Moscow on Aug 19 to renew efforts to find a solution to a decades-long territorial row that has prevented the two sides from signing a World War II peace treaty.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama will meet Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov to discuss the four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, TV Asahi reported Saturday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to restart talks between the two nations when they met in April.

The decades-long territorial row that has prevented the two sides from signing a World War II peace treaty.

The dispute surrounds the southernmost four of the Kuril islands—known in Japan as the Northern Territories—which have been controlled by Moscow since the end of World War II but are still claimed by Tokyo.

Economic cooperation between Russia and Japan has been stymied by their failure since the 1950s to agree on a peace treaty.

But since returning to power in December, Abe has made improving relations with Russia a priority and given rise to cautious hope by backing the resumption of stalled talks on a solution.

The last such top-level official visit to Russia was by then Prime minister Junichiro Koizumi in January 2003. Former prime ministers Yasuo Fukuda and Taro Aso visited in 2008 and 2009 for shorter, lower-level trips.

Japan is particularly interested in increasing its import of Russian energy resources as it seeks to diversify supplies in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

Russia’s trade with Japan reached $32 billion (24 billion euros) last year. But Russia, despite its size and proximity, was only Japan’s 15th most important trading partner, in a sign of the unrealized potential of relations.

Yet there remains little hope of an immediate breakthrough, with Tokyo insisting the four islands currently inhabited by around 16,500 Russians are its territory and Moscow showing no hint of a compromise.

One solution mooted in the past could involve Russia ceding control of the two smallest islands of Shikotan and Khabomai and keeping the much larger Kunashir and Iturup (known as Kunishiri and Etorofu in Japan).

But even this would require massive concessions from both sides that would be unpalatable for nationalists.

Japan Today/AFP

  • -10

    smithinjapan

    Why bother? Two of these Russian islands, and they ARE Russian (what's Japan's reason that they own the Senkakus again? Oh yeah! they administer them!), will be offered back AT BEST, and the ultra-wingers in power would never allow it. So as usual, they'll get nothing instead of something.

  • -13

    iWorld

    Maybe Japan will do what it did with Senkaku/Diaoyu Island by unilaterally nationalize them and blame Russian for aggression when they send patrols ships reinforce their claim to those islands.

    Oh right, Japan doesn't have guts to do that because Russia will not react as mildly as China did.

  • -1

    Bob Sneider

    waste of tax payer money, japanese are too pridefull to allow for a compromise

  • 1

    oedo1

    Comparing the Kuril islands to the Senkaku islands is ridiculous and shows either a complete lack of understanding or an overt attempt to misconcieve the truth.

    It would be great if a compromise was found for the Kurils but that probably won't happen right away for many reasons. But at least there is dialogue.

    And, I've never heard any one say Japan OWNS the Senkakus because they administer them. Many bo believe, probably correctly, that the Senkakus were returned to Japan's administration BECAUSE Japan owns them. Even China insisted on the condition that when Ryukyu was returned to Japan the Senkaku Islands had to be part of that package!

    The best would be for Japan and Russia to continue dialog, compromise on the Kurils, and for Japan to reestablish their bonito processing plant on the Senkakus. Both, hopefully, as soon as possible.

  • -10

    smithinjapan

    oedo: "The best would be for Japan and Russia to continue dialog, compromise on the Kurils, and for Japan to reestablish their bonito processing plant on the Senkakus. Both, hopefully, as soon as possible."

    Since this isn't really about the Senkaku/Daiyou islands we needn't go any further on why you're wrong, about the hypocrisy of both governments on the issue, etc., but once again as long as Japan insists everything belongs to them (ie. the Kuriles) there will never, ever, be a compromise. Russia has shown it is willing to be mature about this and has now TWICE offered to hand back two of the islands. The Japan side, on the other hand, had a minister nearly be forced to resign for even suggesting Russia might be allowed to keep one... or was it 0.5 of the islands?

  • 6

    Hide Suzuki

    @iWorld

    "Russia will not react as mildly as China did."

    Only Chinese people like you describe China as "mild" LOL.

  • 8

    Serrano

    smithinjapanAug. 11, 2013 - 09:35AM JST

    "Why bother? Two of these Russian islands, and they ARE Russian (what's Japan's reason that they own the Senkakus again? Oh yeah! they administer them!),"

    What makes them Russian, smith, besides having seized them at the end of the war? Oh yeah! They administer them!

  • 1

    YuriOtani

    The difference is Russia took them by force. The difference is there is still people alive that lived on those islands. Russia wants all 4 islands and money to develop them. Then they will take the Japanese investments without a thank you. Japan does not have to sign a peace treaty and does not have to pay money to make Russian lives better. Our first concern is to make Japan better for Japanese and stop giving away our tax yen to ingrates!

  • -6

    highball7

    iWorld,

    I agree with you. Unlike China, Russia will not hesitate to attack Japan if its provoked. It knows that US will not retaliate against Russia over Japan on disputed islands. U.S. might retaliate against China under the right circumstances.

    Here's the difference and why its hypocritical of Japan. Russia acknowledges the potential disputes on the 4 islands but it really has no reason to because it was the victor of the war. Only because Japan insisted upon the dispute that Russia is willing to sit down to discuss.

    Take China/Korea/Taiwan's grievances against Japan. Japan refuses to acknowledge the existence of a dispute when clearly there is one.

    How Japan is feeling about these 4 islands with Russia is probably how China, Korea, and Taiwan is feeling about their respective disputed islands with Japan.

    If Japan wants to argue ownership over those 4 islands, then China and Taiwan have absolute rights to argue against Diaoyu/Senkaku. Actually China/Taiwan has more legitimacy over these islands because they are uninhabited. The Kuril islands are inhabited and stationed with troops. Good luck with that.

  • -11

    smithinjapan

    Serrano: "What makes them Russian, smith, besides having seized them at the end of the war? Oh yeah! They administer them!"

    Yeah, Japan's never seized anything. Certainly not... ahem... the islands in question during not only the Russo-Japan war but when they invaded Siberia later. Doh!

    So, are you suggesting they are Japanese because a) they don't administer them, b) Japan took them by force originally, or c) Russia took them back by force?

    Ouch.

  • 8

    SamuraiBlue

    smithinjapan

    So, are you suggesting they are Japanese because a) they don't administer them, b) Japan took them by force originally, or c) Russia took them back by force?

    So when did Japan take the Southern Kurile island forcefully, in an alternate reality?

    The administration of those islands were decided peacefully between Russia and Japan through peaceful negotiations in the 19th century. In fact, there is no fact of Japan occupying Russian territory through out history.

  • -4

    Redcliff

    To enable Abe to fulfill his personal mandate of ensuring a Japan with a strong military force he has to continue to search for potential area of conflict to justify his amendment to Article 9, increase in the Military force and the defense budget. All these continue disputes with China and Russian served his purpose well together with maintaining a tempo with those countries that also have disputes with China. This is the strategy he had formulated and currently implementing it .

  • 4

    hidingout

    Comparing the Kuril islands to the Senkaku islands is ridiculous and shows either a complete lack of understanding or an overt attempt to misconcieve the truth.

    Ding ding .... you've hit the nail on the head. Some folks make "paraphrasing" the truth a life's work here at JT.

    His might be a short-term prime ministership but the troubles he is bringing to japan will have long lasting repercussions.

    You're afraid aren't you louis. Afraid that Abe's attempts to finalize a solution with Russia will bear fruit. Imagine if Russia and Japan could mend fences. The drain of Japanese investment from PRC would be a beautiful thing to see.

    Russia desires Japanese investment in developing not only he Kuril's, but also their Eastern provinces. In exchange for investing in Russian development, Japan would gain access to much needed raw materials. This partnership will be beneficial for both. Not to mention economic and security partnerships in the Kuril's will lead to further cultural exchange that could increase Japanese soft power and influence with Russia as a whole--and vice versa. Japan needs to work with Russia to pull them further away from China. Russia has an interest in containing China's rise as well.

    Well said. I disagree that the Japanese will continue to be "stubborn". I think Abe wants to make a deal, and he has the power right now to do it. Too much to gain to allow stubbornness to derail the process. I think Abe is smarter than that, and I know Putin is.

  • 1

    CrazyJoe

    The nature of the problem of the Northern territories is significantly different from that of Takeshima and the Senkaku Islands. In the case of the Northern Territories issue, both parties (Japan and Russia) recognize the existence of the problem and working to find a solution.

  • 0

    JBird

    @smith Let me get this straight... You think that Japan "took" the Southern Kurils by force when "Japan invaded Siberia"???? Do you really beleive that? The koolaid must be good! Too funny!

    and lRobin You think that Japan stole the Senkaku Islands by force??? When exactly was that anyway? But to answer your question "Why" China keeps asking for the islands is simple. They DIDN'T want the islands and had already agreed they were Japanese until the possibility of rich mineral, gas, and oil reserves around the islands was discovered. Suddenly maps are redrawn, texts rewritten, new propaganda formulated, and here we go.

  • -6

    smithinjapan

    JBird: "and lRobin You think that Japan stole the Senkaku Islands by force??? When exactly was that anyway? "

    They obviously didn't take them by force, as you can ask all the people living on them. They did, though, formally renounce any claim to the islands after WWII. Japan didn't administer them either until 1972, for all those whining about why the Chinese suddenly wanted the islands in 1970. But let's forget those facts, shall we?

    hidingout: "I think Abe wants to make a deal, and he has the power right now to do it. Too much to gain to allow stubbornness to derail the process. I think Abe is smarter than that, and I know Putin is."

    Gotta disagree with you on that one, unless for some reason Russia decides to give back all four islands. Abe even describes himSELF as a 'hawk', meaning right-winger; there is absolutely no way he would agree to anything less than all four islands being returned, even if he tried to be a good leader and negotiate. It would be political suicide.

  • 4

    Jay Wilson

    These talks will achieve nothing for Japan except to waste Shinzo Abe's time. Russia has no intention of giving Japan any of the islands and only want Japan to throw its money away on the islands as Moscow does not have the money to invest in the islands itself. if the islands are so valuable to Russia, why does Russia say the '56 deal (which Russia abrogated) to return two of the islands is still valid?

  • 2

    Kazuaki Shimazaki

    @IRobin

    The disputes islets of with China was not taken by force? Why?

    The Senkaku islets were officially occupied as part of terra nullus, which was part of the standard international doctrine at the time and recognized even now. It is true that there was a nice little war going on at around the same time, and a Treaty was signed that gave Japan Taiwan, but if anything it proves that at least in Japan's eyes they were two separate affairs. If they genuinely felt that it was part of Chinese territory or part of Taiwan ... heck, they were about to win anyway ... they can just take it in the same Treaty as Taiwan, without going for the complication of terra nullus.

    If you are right, why China keep asking for it?

    Here's a better question. Why do you assume the Chinese claim has anything but a greed for oil about it?

    Second, Treaty of Peace with Japan hand over these islets to Japan without China's agreement, even without China's attention. What kind of Treaty is this? Who can tell me the reason that this is not by force?

    Perhaps because everyone agrees at the time they are part of Okinawa, and thus they handled it all under Article 3?

    Chinese suddenly wanted the islands in 1970" this sentence of yours is not true. because it is abviously impossible

    There are some nice contemporary maps suggesting otherwise. I certainly have yet to see the Chinese produce some credible proof they made any real moves to claim the islands as their own throughout the 1895-1970 period - you would think if they can one scrap of paper along those lines in their archives they'd have deployed it already.

    @smithinjapan

    They did, though, formally renounce any claim to the islands after WWII.

    That would require them to believe it was part of Taiwan rather than Okinawa.

    Japan didn't administer them either until 1972, for all those whining about why the Chinese suddenly wanted the islands in 1970.

    If the Chinese thought the islands were theirs, then they should be squawking no matter who was owning or administering them.

    As for the whole 1972 business, to accept this you then believe they are part of Okinawa. The problem is the very construction of the San Francisco treaty says that Okinawa belongs to Japan.

    Article 3: Japan will concur in any proposal of the United States to the United Nations to place under its trusteeship system, with the United States as the sole administering authority, Nansei Shoto south of 29deg. north latitude (including the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands), Nanpo Shoto south of Sofu Gan (including the Bonin Islands, Rosario Island and the Volcano Islands) and Parece Vela and Marcus Island. Pending the making of such a proposal and affirmative action thereon, the United States will have the right to exercise all and any powers of administration, legislation and jurisdiction over the territory and inhabitants of these islands, including their territorial waters.

    You see, if Japan doesn't have sovereignty over the Nansei Shoto ... etc, then it has no legitimacy to give administrative rights to the United States or anybody else. So the fact that this was written, and that it was accepted in this form by the signing nations, is acceptance that sovereignty of all the mentioned areas are Japanese.

  • -5

    smithinjapan

    IRobin: "I am a little angery at that moment, because I had seen those kind of opions all day here. and thus lead to the mistake."

    No problem. But don't just be civil to me because we agree on some points. If you're angry, be angry, but be sure to back it up.

    Kazuaki: "You see, if Japan doesn't have sovereignty over the Nansei Shoto ... etc, then it has no legitimacy to give administrative rights to the United States or anybody else."

    So by that argument Russia has no legitimacy to give up the rights to islands Japan is asking them to give up the rights to. Hang on a second.... is this another one of those "It's different in this case!" arguments that attempt to justify the obvious hypocrisies?

  • 2

    hokkaidoguy

    Hang on a second.... is this another one of those "It's different in this case!" arguments that attempt to justify the obvious hypocrisies?

    Only if you're an idiot.

  • -6

    smithinjapan

    hokkaidoguy: "Only if you're an idiot."

    Then I guess idiocy abounds. In the meantime, Japan will insist it's one way in one case and a different the next, and won't get any islands in the process.

  • 1

    K.kawanp

    That is a good news which might be a new progressive for both of countries over territorial issue. The four islands which are located in North area of Japan island is in similar situation with Takeshima issue with ROK because even Japan also insist that the four islands are Japanese territory, Russia has been controlled it for several decades. If you visit to there, then you could see that the four islands are totally part of Russia. what difference between Russia and ROK is that whether they are willing to improve via talks or not. The deep corporation with Russia could be deterrent to DPRK for Japan, so Japan should face to the four islands issue, and keep trying to improve it, but on the other hand, the corporation with ROK may not be bale to achieved in next a hundred years. ROK even never tried to improve relationship with Japan. They always say that " there is no great future for country that never regret for past mistakes", " Japanese provocations is the biggest cause why Japan and ROK cannot get a mutual understanding". If you look at what exactly happened in the past, then you could find Japanese apology, compensation, and huge scale of economical support. Even ROK spent the money which came from Japan for their economical development, they never showed an appropriate attitude, moreover they hide Japan-South Korea basic treaty until they disclosed it for their people in 2002. Japan also may not be good to improve two countries relations, but ROK also needs to re-think what they should do for their future.

  • 3

    oedo1

    @smith

    so by that argument ...

    Actually, smith, doesn't it mean that the Senkaku Islands, by being considered to be part of Nansei Shoto, were NOT, as you say, "formally renounce any claims to the islands" now doesn't it? You can't have it bith ways!

    Also, I notice you conviently ignored Jbird's comment about your post saying that Japan took th Kuril islands in question by force when Japan invaded Siberia. I'd be interest in where you got that idea!

  • 0

    kiyoshiMukai

    Its very hard for russia to give those Islands, nobody will agree. Maybe Japan can offer lots of money.

  • 0

    SamuraiBlue

    smithinjapan

    Russia has no legitimacy to give up the rights to islands Japan is asking them to give up the rights to.

    No smithy Japan is asking Russia to give up administration rights which Russia had inherited from the Soviet Union that had been taken from Japan by force. Legitimacy of sovereignty had always been under Japan and never was in question as Soviet Union of Russia had admitted when they agreed that there is a dispute over the islands and was willing to negotiate.

    The possible negotiation that may take place is not over legitimacy of sovereignty. It is a more high level negotiation in which Russia returns administration right to number of islands back to Japan in exchange Japan transfers the sovereignty of the remaining islands to Russia. In which will conclude all dispute of territory in full and forever between Russia and Japan.

    Former PM Mori who visited Russia earlier this year was doing per-negotiation with Russian high ranking officials on the numbers of islands should be considered in which it is said that Russia suggested splitting the amount in gross area and not limit in amount of islands for a more fair settlement.

    This option gives more possibility of investment to the remaining island from Japan which would be more beneficial for Russian then leaving the remaining island(s) to rot.

  • -1

    nigelboy

    So, are you suggesting they are Japanese because a) they don't administer them, b) Japan took them by force originally, or c) Russia took them back by force?

    Neither. The four islands in question were never part of Kuril Island chain as confirmed by the agreements between the two in 1855 and 1875

    .

    Ouch.

    Indeed.

  • 1

    Farmboy

    When a country with a bad war time history without credibility starts initiating discussions out of the blue with other countries, what do you think?

    I would think they are trying to find a solution. Do you think there will be a solution if the two parties don't talk? Russia knows about trust, and about how to work out agreements. Just let it be, and hope that there is one less conflict in the world.

  • -1

    Probot2000X

    It's not going to happen under Vladimir Poutine's regime, unless he and his fat cats get what they want.

  • 2

    Kazuaki Shimazaki

    So by that argument Russia has no legitimacy to give up the rights to islands Japan is asking them to give up the rights to. Hang on a second.... is this another one of those "It's different in this case!" arguments that attempt to justify the obvious hypocrisies?

    It is my understanding that Japan's goal is to get Russia to 1) Acknowledge it doesn't have legitimacy and 2) with that as a basis start negotiating the return of the islands' administrative rights. Russia might "sell" the islands for the right price, but I doubt the Japanese are going to get 1.

    BTW, while I'm very much Japan's friend when it comes to Senkaku and Takeshima (but only because my read of international law says it is on their side), on the matter of the Kuriles (note my names of choice) I don't think they have much of a leg to stand on. IMO, they blew it away when they signed the San Francisco Treaty, which says they are renouncing their sovereignty over the area. That's not the same as handing it to the USSR, but since the USSR was standing right on it as they blanked their own sovereignty ... the normal rules of occupation and prescription are dominant and today it is Russian with a capital R.

  • 0

    Tiger_In_The_Hermitage

    The allies own the media and they can play a message to brain wash their citizens into believing that these islands are ligitamately Japanese or belonging to the alliance. Its rediculous but fortunately we are part of the alliance, would hate to the on the other side.

  • -3

    globallc

    Hypocrisy is alive and well.

    Surely, right to negotiate on territory administrated by others disputed by Japan, but when the contrary happens, there should absolutely be no dispute whatsoever.

    And to the ones who criticize minority policies of other, ones should look at one's own backyard on Ainu, Okinawans and people of Korean decent in Japan.

    http://www.hrdc.net/sahrdc/hrfeatures/HRF56.htm - Japan’s minorities yet to find their place in the sun.

  • -1

    CrisGerSan

    Interesting to see the same China supporters are on duty here as well as in any threads on the other island issue. Well at least they are talking Japan and Russia, instead of sending out ships to harrass the rightful owner of the territory and using bullying tactics. Might be a good example for China to study.

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