Lavrov tells Japan to accept war defeat
Russia’s foreign minister has called on Japan to accept its Second World War defeat to move ahead with “peace” talks in order to advance discussions on a peace plan. Russia and Japan never signed a peace treaty after Tokyo’s surrender in 1945.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who has been foreign minister since President Vladimir Putin was elected to a second term in March 2004, said a territorial dispute must be resolved before a peace treaty could be signed.
Moscow’s position is to demand that Tokyo accept Russian sovereignty over the islands, which Russia calls the Southern Kuriles and the Japanese call the Northern Territories.
The veteran foreign minister told his annual press conference that Japan’s defeat “is an inevitable and indispensable factor in today’s international system”.
“Why is Japan the only country in the world that cannot accept the result of Second World War in its entirety?”
Talks between Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are to be held in Moscow on January 22.
The four disputed islands, one of which is around 20km from Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, are HabomaiI, Etorofu, Kunashiri and Shikotan (pictured). Three islands are inhabited, while Habomai is a collection of isles with a border patrol.
Abe and Putin have met 22 times to discuss the islands, with Japan repeatedly rejecting the Russian offer since the 1960s to settle the dispute with the return of the two smallest islands, Habomai and Shikotan. Japan says all four islands are part of its sovereign territory.
Kremlin foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov this week said the talks with Abe were expected to be difficult, adding that the disputed islands “are our land and nobody intends to give this land away to anyone”.
In 1956, the Soviet Union and Japan issued a joint declaration ceding Shikotan and Habomai, two islands in the disputed Kuril Islands that the Soviets captured in the final days of the war.
Moscow is urging Japan to accept the document as the basis for negotiations while the Japanese government says Russia is aware of its position.
In Russia, demonstrators rallied against handing back control of the islands to Japan and in Tokyo protesters called on the government to reclaim the archipelago.
Shikotan. Picture credit: Wikimedia