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Editorial: Government as a whole must prepare for treaty negotiations with Russia

  • December 4, 2018
  • , The Japan News , 8:08 p.m.
  • English Press

The negotiations for a peace treaty involving territories must be hard-fought and difficult. The government must make concerted efforts in the talks to resolve what has been an outstanding issue of concern since the end of World War II.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Buenos Aires and they agreed on a new framework for peace treaty negotiations.


At the meeting, the prime minister said that he would “elevate the Japan-Russia relationship to a new dimension.”


The two nations’ foreign ministers, Taro Kono and Sergey Lavrov, will be responsible for the negotiations. Vice-ministerial officials of the two countries will hold working-level discussions. Before the prime minister’s visit to Russia scheduled in January next year, a meeting by the foreign ministers is expected to be held.


Regarding Japan-Russia relations, talks between their top leaders have taken the lead. When it comes to negotiations on a treaty, meticulous work is needed to reach conclusions on a wide range of topics and to make them into treaty provisions. Consistency with previous agreements must be also achieved.


It is also important to coordinate fully with the United States, which is Japan’s ally.


The Japan-Russia negotiations have been stalled repeatedly in the past. They often resulted in the two sides merely exchanging their set assertions of principles. In order to avert the same mistake, solutions that are acceptable for both Japan and Russia must be explored.


The accelerated negotiations were triggered by the two leaders’ agreement at a meeting last month that the talks will be conducted on the basis of the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration, which specifies the transfer of the Habomai group of islets and Shikotan Island.

Demand return of 2 islands


First of all, it is the top priority for Japan to demand the return of those two islands, which is referred to in the joint declaration.


Putin, asserting that on what ground the transfer of Habomai and Shikotan should happen is not clearly stated in the declaration, has said that matters such as the sovereignty of the two islands will be discussed. This is probably a comment intended for Russia’s domestic audience, but it is not acceptable.


For many years, Japan has claimed that the four islands, including the two other islands of Etorofu and Kunashiri, are inherent territories of Japan. It is essential that the government persistently urge Russia to make concessions.


Another challenge in the negotiations is to eliminate Japan’s security concerns.


Russia has been proceeding with making the islands of Etorofu and Kunashiri military footholds. In recent years, it has become more frequent for Russian military aircraft to fly close to Japan’s airspace and for Air Self-Defense Force planes to scramble in response. It is necessary to call for Russia to refrain from intimidating activities.


In order to ease tensions, it is essential for the two countries to strengthen cooperation in the security field. It is hoped to promote exchanges between uniformed personnel of the two countries, such as enhancing sea rescue drills that have already been held jointly by the Self-Defense Forces and the Russian military.


Russia has seized Ukrainian Navy vessels, and tensions between those two countries are growing. It is quite natural that the prime minister at the meeting called for bringing calm to the situation.


It is important for the government to continue urging Russia to refrain from taking actions that may disturb the international order.

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