A Second World War- era territory row still stands in the way of a peace treaty between Russia and Japan, according to Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking on Friday May 10th.
The dispute is over four islands between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean, seized by the Soviet Army at the end of the Second World War, which has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from formally ending their wartime hostilities, as Japan refuses to recognize Moscow’s sovereignty over the islands, in a disagreement that has soured relations between the two countries.
Lavrov said following talks with his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, on Friday May 10th that reaching an agreement with Tokyo on the peace treaty issue remains a difficult task.
"We have exchanged views on ways to reach an agreement that would be fully in the interests of our countries and that our people would support unequivocally. It is a difficult task," Lavrov said, adding that "clearly, it requires long-term, painstaking and creative effort to accomplish it."
As reported by the Russian news agency TASS, Lavrov said: “we need to bring Russian-Japanese relations to a new level by boosting ties in all areas, as President Putin has emphasized on numerous occasions. I think our Japanese neighbours share the opinion that we need to move in that direction. On our part, we pointed out that the work based on the 1956 Declaration primarily implies the full recognition of the results of World War II as it is enshrined in the UN Charter.”
According to the Russian top diplomat, security is another important issue. "The Joint Declaration was prepared and signed in specific historical and political circumstances. The situation has changed since then and we have to take into account the security treaty between Japan and the US," he stressed.
Since the mid-20th century, Russia and Japan have been holding consultations in order to clinch a peace treaty as a follow-up to the Second World War.
On November 14th, 2018, Russian president Vladimir Putin and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe held a meeting on the side-lines of the ASEAN summit in Singapore, and agreed that the two countries would speed up peace treaty talks based on the 1956 declaration. The two countries’ foreign ministers, Sergei Lavrov and Taro Kono oversee the negotiations.
However, both countries face opposition to any compromise on the territorial issue, and according to Radio Free Europe, Russia has taken steps to consolidate its hold on the islands.