On Dec. 21, Japan’s relevant ministers expressed wait-and-see positions as Russian President Vladimir Putin cited local opposition to the construction of a new U.S. military base in Henoko, Nago, as a source of concern that the U.S. military would deploy to the Northern Territories if they were handed over to Japan upon the completion of a Japan-Russia peace treaty. The Japanese side judged that the comment is an indication of Russia’s attempt to create a stir ahead of Japan-Russia negotiations, which will begin in January under the leadership of the countries’ foreign ministers, and decided that Japan should not overreact
With regards to Putin’s remarks, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga noted at a press conference that “I won’t comment on every single remark [he makes].” On Japan’s stance on negotiations of a peace treaty with Russia, he refrained from commenting on the matter, saying that “making comments outside the negotiations could have a negative impact on the talks.”
Minister of Defense Takeshi Iwaya followed suit at a press conference, saying, “I would like to refrain from commenting.” On Putin’s comment, a source close to the Japanese government said, “That’s what he always does. He uses his press conference as a propaganda tool.”
At a press conference held on Dec. 20, Putin expressed concern that U.S. military facilities could be deployed to the Northern Territories after their return to Japan and demanded Japan address this concern.
He also referred to the ongoing construction of a new U.S. military base in Henoko despite local opposition there, saying, “I can’t understand the extent of Japan’s sovereignty when making a decision on such an issue.”