The situation around concluding a peace treaty between Russia and Japan is not locked in a stalemate, but Tokyo’s position hinders its signing, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a youth educational forum dubbed the "Territory of Meanings."
"I don’t think the situation [around signing the peace treaty with Japan] is a deadlock," Lavrov said. "Now everything bumps into our Japanese colleagues’ reluctance to recognize the outcome of World War II, thus creating obstacles for signing the peace treaty," TASS reports.
Lavrov recalled that last year Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed on intensifying talks on this issue based on the 1956 Joint Declaration, which stipulates that "first a treaty needs to be signed, and then the issue should be considered not about returning, but about handing over two islands as a good will gesture."
"Meanwhile, we believe that the signing of the peace treaty should be aimed at confirming the reality, which occurred after World War II and the recognition of its outcome, in accordance with which all four South Kuril Islands are Russia’s territory," he stressed. "Here our Japanese colleagues cannot change their position."
According to Lavrov, Moscow is guided by the orders given by the Russian leader. "They say our aim is to continue developing relations with Japan in all areas: trade and economic, foreign policy and humanitarian," the top diplomat said. "This is probably the idea of all those steps, which are aimed at ironing out the most challenging issues."
Tokyo’s dependence on US
Russia’s foreign minister also pointed to certain security problems in Russian-Japanese relations, in particular, US military bases on Japan’s territory and a large number of US troops. In addition, under the 1960 Treaty between Tokyo and Washington, the US is entitled to deploy its troops to any part of Japan’s territory.
"This treaty created conditions, which did not exist at the time when the 1956 declaration was signed. By the way, I will note that this declaration could have been implemented during the Soviet time, but the US hindered this step by Japan, because it did not want Tokyo to normalize ties with our country," Lavrov explained.
Russia seeks good relations with its Japanese neighbor, but it needs to understand whether Tokyo is ready to accept the outcome of World War II. "Second, we need to understand whether Japan will be independent in the areas of foreign policy and solving security issues, given Tokyo’s dependence on Washington," Lavrov noted.
Besides, Moscow cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that Japan backs the US in a vote against Russia on all those vital issues, which cause dispute in the United Nations, he said. "Certainly, we cannot shut eyes to the fact that Japan has joined illegal unilateral sanctions on Russia because we protected our fellow countrymen in Crimea," Lavrov stressed.
For decades, Moscow and Tokyo have been negotiating a peace treaty after World War II. The main stumbling block is the status of the Southern Kuril Islands. After World War II, the whole archipelago became part of the Soviet Union. However, Tokyo disputes Russian claims over Iturup, Kunashir and Shikotan islands as well as a number of smaller uninhabited islands called the Habomai Islands in Japan. Moscow has stated many times that Russia’s sovereignty over the islands cannot be called into question.