Japan’s government will keep holding active consultations with Russia based on its stance, which is to solve the issue on the ownership of the Kuril Islands with the further signing of a peace treaty, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said in its annual diplomatic Blue Book report.
"The Northern Territories [Tokyo’s term for the Southern Kuril Islands - TASS] are the islands, over which Japan has sovereignty. The Japanese government maintains close dialogue between the leaders and foreign ministers of the two countries and will continue active talks with Russia on the basis of our basic position - solving the problem of the ownership over four northern islands and the signing of a peace treaty in the future," the document said.
For many decades, Russia and Japan have been in talks to sign a peace treaty after World War II. 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.
In November 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin and former 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 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.
The declaration was ratified by the parliaments of both states on December 8, 1956. As the Russian side has repeatedly noted, this document clearly stated that the issue of border delimitation could be considered only after the conclusion of a peace treaty.