At their Jan. 29 joint meeting, members of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Foreign Affairs Division and Research Commission on Foreign Affairs expressed concern about the stance the government is taking in its negotiations with Russia. These statements were made in light of the Jan. 22 meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Japan-Russia negotiations have revealed differences between the two nations’ understanding of historical matters surrounding the Northern Territories. Although the prime minister is hurriedly pressing forward with negotiations, some at the LDP meeting disagreed, displaying a hard-line stance that “the negotiations should be temporarily broken off.”
At the meeting, a top Ministry of Foreign Affairs official gave an outline of the summit meeting, where the leaders discussed the Japan-Russia peace treaty issue. The MOFA official described the one-on-one meeting at which the two national leaders were accompanied only by their interpreters: “The two leaders had in-depth discussions. Everything was about the peace treaty.” Further bilateral negotiations will be held, the official added.
The Japanese government takes the stance that “the Northern Territories are illegally occupied by Russia” whereas the Russian side says that it “legally acquired the Northern Territories as an outcome of World War II.” The Diet members at the LDP meeting commented: “The Russian side’s understanding of history is inadmissible” and “If we permit Russia’s claims, it will affect Japan’s international position. We should withdraw from the negotiations for a while.”
The Japanese government is seeking a settlement where the two islands of Habomai and Shikotan are returned and joint economic activities are conducted on Kunashiri and Etorofu. Some Diet members questioned this stance, which is referred to as the “two islands plus alpha” approach, saying that “Japan should seek the return of all four islands in principle.”