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Japan report claims sovereignty over isles disputed with Russia

Tokyo, May 19 (Jiji Press)–Japan’s government in its 2020 Diplomatic Bluebook, released Tuesday, claimed sovereignty over the four Russian-controlled northwestern Pacific islands, reviving such rhetoric for the first time in two years.

The 2019 diplomatic report dropped the wording that the islands, located off the northern Japan prefecture of Hokkaido, “belong to Japan,” which was included in the 2018 bluebook.

The reinstating of the rhetoric came apparently in a rebuttal to Moscow’s claim that the islands became its territory as a result of World War II, as well as in response to the criticism from Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party of the government’s failure to mention Tokyo’s position over the islands in the 2019 Diplomatic Bluebook.


The government has been energetically negotiating with Russia under its basic policy of concluding a bilateral peace treaty through the resolution of the issue of the attribution of the islands, said the 2020 report, which was submitted to a cabinet meeting Tuesday by Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.


The islands, known as the Northern Territories in Japan, were seized from Japan by the former Soviet Union at the end of the war. The territorial issue has been preventing Tokyo and Moscow from concluding a peace treaty to formally end their wartime hostilities.


South Korea is an important neighbor of Japan, the government said in the latest report, reviving such an expression for the first time in three years.


Still, the report criticized Seoul for failing to correct its violation of international law over the issue of people from the Korean Peninsula requisitioned to work in Japan during World War II.


South Korea did not stop taking negative moves toward Japan, and the relationship between Japan and South Korea remained severe last year, the report said, citing other problems, including the issue of Korean comfort women, who were forced into prostitution for Japanese troops before and during World War II.


The report said that a series of ballistic missile launches by North Korea are a serious challenge to the international community and are unacceptable.


It is impossible for Japan to normalize its diplomatic relationship with North Korea without resolving the issue of Pyongyang’s abductions of Japanese nationals decades ago, it said.


The report noted that the novel coronavirus pandemic has led to the postponement of a state visit to Japan by Chinese President Xi Jinping that had been slated for spring this year.


Pointing out that Chinese government ships entered Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea a total of 32 times last year, the report said that the Japanese government will deal with the situation resolutely and calmly with a determination to defend Japan’s territorial land, sea and airspace. The Japanese-administered islands are claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu.


The report also said that Japan consistently supports Taiwan’s participation in general meetings of the World Health Organization as an observer.

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