Island disputes in the South China Sea are common, but there is a multi-decade dispute between Japan and Russia, keep reading please.
Japan and Russia have been in talks for decades with regards to four islands off the coast of Japan that, in reality, are Japanese territory. Recently Russian President Vladimir Putin has entertained the idea of returning, in accordance with a 1956 declaration, two of the contested islands. This decades long territorial row may be moving to a partial solution, allowing both Japan and Russia to improve ties – some of think that there could be a energy component to the solution. Japan, a country with limited natural resources, could start importing energy from Russia, mainly in the form of natural gas, in a pipeline constructed in Siberia. Such ideas have been tabled in the past decade, with Japanese political figures taking the lead.
Japan must balance the US and Russian relationships as a major deal with Russia, especially one that incorporates an energy component, could damage Japan-US ties. Right now, the key question is just how serious Mr Putin and the Russian government are as they have only talked about a solution for decades. Japan has been patient,
A professor well versed in geopolitics at Takushoku University, Mr Takashi Kawakami, has made it clear that Putin is committed to drive a wedge between the US and Japan, so this discussion has an historical and of course a built in geopolitical strategy.
Japanese government officials are keen to recover the islands of Habomai and Shikotan in the first transaction, first to rebuild and develop the islands. They would also request access to two other islands, at least in a limited sense.
This ongoing discussion since WWII has continued with a pattern of the Soviets and now that Russians suggesting a return of the islands with strings attacked regarding a relationship or some gift from Japan. More on this story in the coming months as it develops …. Japan may finally see the return of its islands.