Prime Minister Shinzo Abe left Tokyo on Monday to visit President Putin to discuss, among many issues, the Northern Islands. PM Abe left Haneda International Airport on his way to visit Russia and Switzerland aboard a government plane – he will meet Mr Putin on Tuesday in Moscow. Note that this will be there 25th meeting and the current negotiations with Russia are “far from easy” PM Abe told reporters as he was leaving.
Mr Abe said to the press, “I want to have frank discussions with Putin so the two can make as much progress as possible in bilateral peace treaty negotiations” They held talks in Singapore in November last year, and they discussed the 1956 Japan-Soviet joint declaration, which calls for the handover of Shikotan and the Habomai – the smaller two of the four disputed islands – to Japan. Again, Japan is requesting what is rightfully part of its sovereign territory.
We at Classisarius did some research and when looking at these disputed islands, it seems that there were islands that Japan “rented” or “leased” to Russian many years ago for fishing rights. These islands reverted back to Japan and changed hands many times. There was never any question that the islands were in fact, Japanese territory, as they have always been. However, since WWII, the dispute was clearly political and with Soviet expansion the Soviet Union had no interest in giving any territory back to a US ally.
In a recent meeting, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Minister demanded when in meetings with his Japanese counterpart, that Japan must recognize the the islands were in fact Russian territory. Of course, this type of demand will only derail talks in the future.