The Japanese government is yet to receive clarifications from Russia about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposals about involving Japan in economic activities of the Kuril Islands, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Friday at a press conference in Tokyo.
"We took notice of these statements by President Putin. We intend to continue consultations on various levels that relate to introducing specifics to the joint activities on the four northern islands (as Japan refers to the southern Kuril Islands - TASS), coming from the understanding that such activities should not contradict our legal position. As of now, we are yet to receive clarifications from the Russian side about taxes and other issues that were covered by media.
Earlier this week, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin paid a visit to the Russian Far East and Siberia. Mishustin’s tour started on the Kuril Archipelago’s Iturup Island.
Putin instructed the prime minsiter to pay special attention to the Kuril Islands during this trip. The leader recalled that Russia had been long engaged in negotiations with Japanese partners to create "the necessary conditions for the participants in economic activities." Putin also announced "unique and unprecedented" proposals to get Japan involved in the economy of the Kuril Islands. Putin explained that the final initiatives will be formulated following Mishustin’s trip.
After Putin’s visit to Japan in December 2016 and his meetings with then-Japanese Prime Minister Minister Shinzo Abe, a joint statement was issued noting that an important step towards signing a peace treaty would be launching consultations on joint economic activity in the Southern Kuril Islands. Currently, the two countries are holding consultations on joint economic activity in five fields: aquatic culture, greenhouses, tourism, wind energy and waste processing.
Peace treaty talks
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 then-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.