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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #274: January 14, 2005

Russia Views Final Peace Deal with Japan as Long-term Prospect

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Russia Views Final Peace Deal with Japan as Long-term Prospect
(Xinhua) People's Daily


The article reports the comments made by the Russian Foreign Ministry that a peace treaty with Japan to formally end enmity between the two nations dating back to World War II is a long-term prospect. In diplomatic terms, this means the Russians have no intention to negotiate, much less compromise, the issues which Japan considers prerequisite in concluding a peace treaty.

This is the 60th year since the end of fighting of World War II, and no peace treaty has been concluded between Japan and the former Soviet Union or the Russian Federation, the state retaining continuity with the Soviet Union. The reason for this delay is the unresolved Northern Territories Issue.

The Northern Territories of Japan consists of four islands located off the northeastern coast of Hokkaido. They are, Habomai, Shikotan, Kunashiri, and Etorofu. The four islands are those closest to Hokkaido among a chain of islands extending to Kamuchatka Peninsula, which is an extrusion from the northeastern end of the gigantic Eurasian continent.

There are evidences of Japanese people settling and gradually establishing its rule there centuries ago, but they first appeared in an official diplomatic document in 1855 - exactly a century and a half ago - when the Treaty of Commerce, Navigation and Delimitation between Japan and Russia, concluded in a friendly and peaceful manner. It established the boundary of the two states clearly being between Etorofu and Uruppu islands.

This agreement, however, left the possession of the island of Sakhalin undefined. It was thought at the time that both Japanese and Russians could freely dwell on the island, which in fact turned out to be a burden for the people. In order to resolve the confusion, the Treaty for the Exchange of Sakhalin for the Kurile Islands was concluded in 1875. The peaceful negotiations resulted in the eighteen islands from Uruppu and to Shimushu to belong to Japan, which effectively made the whole chain of islands from Hokkaido to Kamuchatka a part of Japanese territory, and Sakhalin Island becoming Russian territory.

In 1904, Japan and Russia went to war, and as a result, the Portsmouth Peace Treaty was concluded in 1905, by which the southern half of Sakhalin Island was ceded by Russia to Japan.

Such was the state until WWII, and, since the Neutrality Pact between Japan and the Soviet Union became effective in April 1941, there should have been no territorial disputes if the pact was observed by the respective parties.

On August 9, 1945, on the day the second nuclear bomb was detonated over the city of Nagasaki, the Soviet Union, violating this neutrality pact, entered into war against Japan. A week later, on August 14, Japan accepted the Postdam Proclamation and surrendered to the Allied Powers. The soviet forces, however, did not stop fire and kept on attacking not only the military bases but cities on the islands, killing many civilians along the way, until September 4, when they seized the last of the chain of islands, including those four close to Hokkaido. The Soviet Union, after the fighting had ceased, forced the Japanese civilians living there out of the islands, occupying the land with force to this day.

The peace treaty between Japan and the Allied Powers was signed in San Francisco in 1951. During the conference, Japan renunciated the southern half of Sakhalin Island and the Kurile Islands. It must be noted that although the whole of the chain of islands is sometimes referred to as the Kurile Islands in the geoscientific academia, as the origin and formation of the chain is considered to be of a single cause in terms of geology, the term used in the conference did not include the four islands close to Hokkaido, which is unambiguously documented in the U.S. government's official papers.

Another point was that the intention of the Soviet Union to include the southern half of Sakhalin Island and the Kurile Islands - and Japan's Northern Territories - into their territory could not win recognition by other countries, and was not included in the San Francisco Peace Treaty. For this and other reasons, the Soviet Union did not sign the treaty. It may worth noting that the treaty expressly stipulates the treaty shall not confer any benefits on any non-signatory.

So where are we? It is a simple fact that the four islands are Japanese territory. It has been so since the beginning of history, with the only flaw being the islands are currently occupied by the military forces of Russia, and their denial for Japan to extend its jurisdiction there. As for the Kurile Islands and the southern half of Sakhalin Island, all Japan knows is that they were renunciated by Japan - supposedly for the disposal of the signatories of the San Francisco treaty and none of Japan's concern now, but have not heard of anyone righteously acquiring the land to date.

Eastern Russia, broadly called Siberia, is rich in natural resources which, if developed properly, could be benefit not only Japan and Russia, but also the whole world. Japan is willing to start productive discussions toward extending its capital and expertise to cooperate with Russia in the development, if Russia would return what they had stolen in the turmoil of the war 60 years ago.

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