In connection with the issue of the Northern Territories, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “Russia will not sell even one (island to Japan).” He also said, “Russia will not link” the territorial issue with the economy or other issues. He made it clear that he will separate measures to strengthen Japan-Russia economic relations and territorial negotiations. He made the remarks at a press conference held in Sochi, a city in the south of Russia.
Putin also said: “Since the issue of concluding a peace treaty is on the agenda of the bilateral dialogue, we will discuss the territorial issue in that dialogue.”
In a meeting with Putin on May 6, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe presented an eight-point cooperation plan, mainly on the economy, apparently hoping that it will help make progress in the territorial issue. But Putin’s remarks nipped the Japanese side’s enthusiasm for bilateral negotiations.
Since last year, the Russian side has strengthened its assertion that “the former Soviet Union legally acquired the four islands of the Northern Territories as a result of World War II.” It has said that unless Japan accepts this assertion, it will not make a concession to achieve economic benefits. Achieving Japan’s acceptance of this assertion is apparently Putin’s intention.
Abe announced in the meeting with Putin that Japan will take “a new approach” for a future-oriented relationship on the territorial issue. However, the Japanese government has not changed its basic stance of “concluding a peace treaty after confirming sovereignty over the four islands.” There is a possibility that Putin reacted negatively to Japan’s upholding this stance.