The Japanese government is determined to achieve a solution to the territorial issue and sign a peace treaty with Russia, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in his program speech at the parliamentary session’s opening on Monday.
"Step-by-step, the agreements, which we reached with Russian President [Vladimir] Putin are being implemented," Abe said. "Former residents of the [Southern Kuril] Islands go on a pilgrimage tour by plane to their relatives’ graves and joint economic activity is being cultivated on the four islands."
"We will speed up talks based on the 1956 Joint Declaration, solve the territorial problem and sign a peace treaty," Abe said. "We are moving towards this without any hesitation. I’m fully determined to achieve this goal together with President [Vladimir Putin]," he stressed.
Russia and Japan have been in talks to sign a peace treaty since the mid-20th century. The main stumbling block to achieving this is the ownership issue over the Southern Kuril Islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan. After the end of World War II, the Kuril Islands were incorporated into the Soviet Union. However, the ownership of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan Islands and the Habomai Islands has been challenged by Japan. The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly said that Russia’s sovereignty over these islands, which is committed to paper in international documents, cannot be called in question, TASS reports.
In November 2018, Putin and Abe held a meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Singapore and agreed that the two countries would accelerate the pace of the peace negotiations based on the 1956 Joint Declaration. The declaration ended the state of war and said that the Soviet government was ready to hand Shikotan Island and a group of small islands called Habomai over to Japan on condition that Tokyo would take control of them once a peace treaty was signed.
In May 2019, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov highlighted that the document clearly said that the border issue could be only considered after signing a peace treaty.