The Japanese government aims to continue holding talks with Russia on the issue of a peace treaty in accordance with the previously reached top-level agreements, Foreign Minister of Japan Toshimitsu Motegi said on Friday during a press conference in Tokyo.
"As for the peace treaty talks, they are being held at the level of both countries' governments. In accordance with the agreements between Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe and President [Vladimir] Putin, we plan to continue holding persistent talks based on our main stance, which supposes that a peace treaty will be signed after a territorial dispute is resolved," he said in response to a request for comment on the new amendment to the Russian Constitution, which prohibits expropriation of Russian territories.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov said on Thursday in an open interview with TASS First Deputy Director General Mikhail Gusman that the adoption of amendments to the Russian Constitution would not affect the negotiating process with Japan on signing a peace treaty. "As for the negotiating process, we are not talking with Japan about the islands, we are engaged in talks with Japan about signing a peace treaty, the treaty of peace, friendship, good neighborliness and cooperation with Japan. Therefore, I believe, these negotiations can be continued with understanding of the thesis of inviolability of our borders that is now enshrined in the Russian Constitution," he said.
Since the mid-20th century, Russia and Japan have been holding consultations in order to clinch a peace treaty as a follow-up to World War II. The Kuril Islands issue remains the key sticking point since after WWII the islands were handed over to the Soviet Union while Japan laid claims to the four southern islands.
In November 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo 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 document 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.
However, after Japan and the United States had signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security in 1960, the Soviet Union withdrew its obligation to hand over the islands. A Soviet government’s memorandum dated January 27, 1960 said that those islands would only be handed over to Japan if all foreign troops were pulled out of the country.
Russia has stated on numerous occasions that the document does not set out handover conditions and thus requires further clarification.