Russia wants to pull Japan away from the U.S. orbit of influence. One arrow in the Kremlin’s quiver has always been the issue of the Kuril Islands, annexed from Japan at the end of the Second World War. However, there has never been a peace treaty signed between the then Soviet Union (now Russian Federation) and the Japanese state.
The deal Japan would like to see (and maybe privately Russia) is possibly returning a couple of the islands to Japan in exchange for reducing American/Japanese defense alliance against the Russian Federation. This drama has been playing out in the Moscow press recently. It seems the trial balloon of territorial return, publicly aired by the Japanese government, raised hackles in Moscow.
Today Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov opined on issues between the two countries.
“We are a long way from partnership in global affairs, moreover, we are still far from reaching an understanding on the need to search for constructive approaches that will bring our positions closer, instead of blaming each other,” he said, reported Russian state news agency TASS.
“We need to feel like partners with the Japanese on the international stage rather than two countries that are on the opposite sides of the fence…Japan did not join some sanctions [against Russia] but it did join a number of them. It is hardly in line with the idea of bringing relations to a new level. Japan joins the G7’s statements aimed against Russia, but as for resolutions that Russia is interested in and that are put to the vote, Japan votes against us,” he added.
“Recognizing the outcome of World War II is neither an ultimatum nor a precondition. It is an inevitable and indispensable factor in today’s international system,” he said. “When joining the United Nations, Japan signed and ratified the UN Charter, while its Article 107 says that the outcome of World War II is not subject to review. This is why we don’t demand anything, we just call on our Japanese neighbors to act in accordance with their obligations under the UN Charter, the Treaty of San Francisco and a number of other documents,” the Russian top diplomat added.
“The Japanese legislation enshrines the term ‘northern territories’,” Lavrov noted. “No one ever made agreements on the return of those territories, it directly contradicts Japan’s obligations under the UN Charter,” he stressed.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also spoke out on the issue today.
“Any kind of harm to interests of our citizens, residents of the Kuril Islands, is totally ruled out,” he said when asked about the possibility of handing over some of the islands to Japan together with the Russian passport holders who are residing there, added TASS.
Peskov added that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to “search for a formula that will be acceptable for people of the both states and help us sever this Gordian knot.”
“The fact that the two nations have no peace treaty is absurd, it puts constraints on the development of our bilateral relations. That’s why it has to be signed. But the question of how it will be done will be made as a result of hard work. But this work must result in a solution that will in no way affect the interests of our population,” the Kremlin spokesman said.