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Survey of newspaper editorials on Japan-Soviet Union joint declaration

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the joint declaration signed by Japan and the Soviet Union (presently Russia) on Oct. 19, 1956, which stipulated the re-establishment of diplomatic ties. Each national paper ran editorials on this, not only because the document is of historic significance but also because it may affect the summit meeting that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold in Nagato, Yamaguchi Prefecture, in December.


Mainichi Shimbun argued in its editorial dated Oct. 19 that it is necessary to take a fresh look at the joint declaration and accurately grasp its significance and limitation to forecast how the situation will develop in negotiations.


The significance of the joint declaration is that it contributed to restore diplomatic ties between Japan and Russia to bring home those who had been detained in the Soviet Union as war criminals and to realize Japan’s accession to the United Nations. The limitation is that the document failed to lead to the settlement of the territorial dispute and ended up only stipulating the “two islands” of Habomai and Shikotan.


Nikkei Shimbun emphasized that Putin acknowledges the validity [of the joint declaration] and asserted that “it makes sense to negotiate with a focus on the joint declaration” to settle the territorial dispute. This probably indicates that the daily proposes the two nations will need to elicit concessions to break the impasse in negotiations.


Yomiuri Shimbun praised the joint declaration proactively with the headline “Japan-Soviet joint declaration still serves as basis of territorial talks.” This suggests the daily is supportive of the foreign policies the Abe government is pursuing to deal with Russia. But on future negotiations, it remained cautious by saying that “strategic efforts are needed.”


Meanwhile, Sankei Shimbun, which often favors the Abe government, assessed the joint declaration in a negative tone by saying that “[Japan] had little choice but to sign it” under the circumstances of the time. It has long advocated that Japan should remain committed to demanding the return of the four islands and should not compromise. It must have feared that support for the joint declaration could contribute to a settlement of the territorial issue with the return of only “two islands.” (Abridged)

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