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Editorial: Restore the terms for the negotiation of the return of the Northern Territories

(Sankei: February 8, 2016 – p. 2)


 Japan marked Northern Territories Day this year amid a very harsh environment as Russia has overturned the terms for negotiation [on the attribution of the four islands].


 At the National Rally to Demand the Return of the Northern Territories, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “Japan will steadfastly take part in the negotiations with an eye to reaching a final resolution.”


 While this statement is a natural one for a prime minister of Japan, what we question is how Japan will change the attitude of a [negotiation] partner who does not intend to listen. We cannot see any prospects for the Northern Territories talks if the usual approach is taken.


 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that negotiation of a peace treaty with Japan is separate from the Northern Territories negotiations. This is equivalent to not recognizing even the existence of the territorial issue.


 We in no way accept Russia’s repeated claim that the Northern Territories became Soviet territory as a result of World War II and so Japan should accept it.


 Taking advantage of the confusion around the time of the end of the war, the Soviet Union illegally occupied the Northern Territories by force, in violation of the Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact, which was in effect at that time. An agreement signed in the more recent past by the leaders of Russia and Japan also clearly states that the two nations would conclude a peace treaty as soon as possible by resolving the issue of the attribution of the Four Northern Islands.


 The Russian foreign ministry leader has repeatedly made statements that unabashedly distort history. The Japanese government says the vice-ministerial talks will go forward this month as scheduled, but will the government manage to extract [from Russia] the withdrawal of such statements?


 Moreover, preparations for Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Russia are also to be discussed at these intergovernmental talks.


 As the chair of the Ise-Shima G7 Summit (meeting of heads of state of major industrialized countries) this May, the Prime Minister plans to visit several European countries in advance of the summit, and it seems that he also intends to visit Russia at that time.


 We must not forget that Russia is being condemned by the international community for attempting to “change the status quo through force,” as demonstrated in its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula by use of military power.


 We also wonder if Japan can offer a convincing explanation to the West as to why the prime minister of the country chairing the G7 Summit is traveling to Russia. It will likely make it harder for Japan to gain support for the Northern Territories issue, which is fundamentally the same as the annexation of Crimea to that extent that they are both cases of land-grabbing by force.


 Northern Territories Day was set on February 7, the day that the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between Japan and Russia [Treaty of Shimoda] was signed in 1855. We hereby reconfirm the significance of this day, which reflects the people’s desire to have the Northern Territories returned, and declare that we will accept no compromise regarding the return of the Four Northern Islands, which are an inherent part of Japan.

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