Moscow is ready for dialogue with Tokyo on the «northern territories» - Politics | PoFo

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In March, 2018 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has started his official visit to Tokyo. The main issues on the agenda are the normalization of relations between the states and the prospects of signing a peace treaty. The main issue at hand is the sovereignty of four disputed southern Kuril Islands.
In terms of geopolitics - Japan is Russia’s most desirable partner in the Far East. Despite their insular position in terms of culture and values, Japan is a classic continental power. German geopolitical theorist Karl Haushofer, in the first half of the 20th century, noticed this paradox, and even proposed the idea of a continental block along the axis of «Berlin-Moscow-Tokyo». Like China, Japan has serious economic and, unlike China, innovation potential, which could contribute to the development of the Russian Far East, but from a demographic point of view, it is not dangerous for the sparsely populated border regions of Russia.
In the past, Japan has expressed interest in closer ties with Russia. Joining the anti-Russian sanctions, after US pressure, provoked a negative reaction from Japanese businesses that were interested in cooperation, including ties with the Russian defense corporations. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly unofficially expressed interest in meeting with the Russian president, contrary to the negative position in this respect of the United States. Japan needs Russia from an economic point of view, primarily as a transport corridor in Europe, an alternative to the Chinese «Silk Road», as well as a political and military-political partner. Currently, Japan is committed to raising the status of its Armed Forces. While today the US exploits this trend to use Japan as a counterweight to China in the Pacific Ocean, in the long term, this trend could strengthen the sovereignty and independence of the country, for which it will be necessary to abandon the one-sided orientation towards the United States.
After Japan's defeat in World War II, the country has become dependent on US’ power. This is the main external obstacle to the rapprochement of the two countries (Russia and Japan). US naval bases are located on the territory of the country, and it is a part of the «Anaconda belt» - the zone of states surrounding Russia from all sides that are controlled by the Americans. The liberation of Japan from American control is thus a geopolitical priority for Russia in the Pacific.
The unresolved territorial dispute over the four southern Kuril Islands is a stumbling block that is used by the Americans in order to prevent rapprochement between the two countries. Because of this, Russia and Japan have still not signed a peace treaty.
Japan considers the islands of Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan, and Habomai to be part of sovereign Japanese territory, calling them the Northern Territories. In 1951, Japan signed the Treaty of San Francisco, which renounced claims to the Kuril Islands and the southern part of Sakhalin, which belonged to it under the terms of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty in 1905. Japan, however, refuses to recognize the four islands as a part of the Kuril ridge, and claimed that the Soviet Union at the time did not sign the San Francisco treaty, and claimed that, under Article 2 Treaty of Shimoda in 1855, Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan, and Habomai were incorporated into Japan and it is the ancestral domains of Japan.
Russia officially considers all of the Kuril Islands to be an integral part of its territory. The Russian public negatively perceives the prospects of a transfer, or at least part of the islands of Japan, which significantly limits the diplomatic maneuvers of the Russian state. The Americans undermine the strategic interests of both countries using pseudo-patriotic rhetoric.
As Sergey Lavrov mentioned, Russia wants clarity about the ownership of the islands. He also expressed his commitment to the 1956 joint declaration of principles, which inter alia state that «the Soviet Union, to meet the wishes of Japan and taking into account the interests of Japan, agrees to transfer to Japan the Habomai Islands and Shikotan providing, however, that the actual transfer of these islands to Japan will be made after the conclusion of the Peace Treaty». Thus, Russia has demonstrated that it is ready to negotiate with Japan on this issue and is waiting for concessions from the Japanese side.
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