Japan aware of Putin’s words on a peace treaty, set to continue talks with Russia

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TOKYO, June 7. /TASS/. The Japanese government is aware of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statement on the talks on a peace treaty and plans to continue active consultations with Russia on this issue, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a press conference on Monday.

“We are aware of President Putin’s answer to the journalist’s question…We consider these words as a confirmation of readiness to continue talks on signing a peace treaty and plan to continue intensive talks on the basis of our fundamental position – ironing out the territorial issue and signing a peace treaty,” Kato said, citing the Russian leader’s words.

Kato recalled that Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had a phone call in September 2020 during which the two leaders confirmed readiness to continue negotiations on signing a peace treaty on the basis of the 1956 Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration. He also stressed that Japan would continue talks with Russia on implementing projects in the framework of joint economic activity, which “would not run counter to both countries’ legal positions.”

On June 4, Putin told heads of world news agencies at a meeting organized by TASS that the Russian constitution’s provision banning alienation of Russian territories does not imply that peace treaty talks with Japan must be suspended. The president also recalled that the Japanese position on the Kuril Islands’ issue was changed many times, but pointed out that Moscow and Tokyo need to build good neighborly relations in any case.

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.