Russo-Japanese friction over territorial issue

Regnum Illustration: Let's Be Friends
A figure with bay leaf sword shouts, "Let's be friends!" (Illustration Credit Alexander Gorbachov © IA REGNUM)

By Choe Yong Nam

Shortly ago, Russia reset the conclusion day of the Second World War on September 2 as September 3 which had been celebrated as the V-J Day during the period of the Soviet Union.

Japan's Sankei Shimbun said that Russia is trying to justify its "occupation of the northern territory" by overlapping the victory day in the war against Japan and the Second World War conclusion day.

And it analysed that there is a high probability that Russia will host large-scale V-J Day celebrations on September 3 this year that marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the "occupation" of the "four islands in the north" by the Soviet Union after Japan signed the Potsdam Declaration may be the object of congratulations.

In the meantime, Asahi Shimbun opened to the public the contents of the "top-secret dialogue" between the Soviet Union and Japan in which the former had allegedly "admitted" the issue of the southern Kuril Islands as the "post-war pending issue" at the bilateral summit meeting in October 1973.

As to Japan's publication of the dialogue contents, the Russian foreign ministry disclosed that Japan tries to get upper hand at the talks for the conclusion of a peace treaty with Russia on the basis of conjecture. And it clarified its stand that the bilateral peace treaty can be concluded only on the condition that Japan fully acknowledges the results of World War II including Russia's dominium over the southern Kuril Islands.

Commenting on such moves of Russia and Japan, analysts said that the difference in both sides' stands concerning the territorial issue is growing wider and the prospects of its settlement are becoming bleaker.

The matter of dominium over the four islands in the southern Kurils (which are called northern territory by Japan) has remained the most sensitive problem between the two countries for decades.

At the talks held in Potsdam after the end of the Second World War, an agreement was made on transferring southern Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, which Japan had taken away from Russia during the Russo-Japanese war in the 1900s, to the Soviet Union. In 1956, the Soviet Union and Japan proclaimed the cessation of war and adopted a joint declaration on the reestablishment of bilateral diplomatic relations. In the declaration the former expressed its willingness to cede the two islands belonging to the southern Kurils to the latter when an all-round peace treaty was made between them. However, Russia invalidated the obligation to return the two islands it took on according to the 1956 declaration in retaliation for Japan's amendment of the security treaty with the US in 1960.

Later, Japan has made desperate efforts for decades to restore the dominium over the four islands.

Though it has tried in every way possible to exact compromise and concession from Russia by using economic aid and cooperation as a bait, it has failed to break down the principled stand of Russia on the territorial issue.

It is the stand of Russia that they cannot allow the slightest concession in the light of national security, although they need economic cooperation. If Russia returns the controversial four islands to Japan, it is as clear as day that the islands will be used as a military strongpoint common to Japan and the US against Russia.

When Japan recently waged a military drill with the US in Okinawa, Russia responded to it with a large-scale military exercise by mobilizing over 20 warships and air force belonging to the Pacific fleet.

A military expert asserted that Russia's buildup of defence capabilities was a right choice, saying it watched for a long time the militarily strategic actions Japan has taken in collusion with the US behind the scene of diplomatic words and deeds.

Although the US and Japan have been practising the plan of attacking the Kuril Islands through routine joint military exercises, Japan will rather be driven into a tight corner if it mounts an attack on the islands, he commented.

(Pyongyang Times - May 28, 2020)
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