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Russian-Japanese Dispute over Kuril Islands

24.12.2014 19:36

The Kuril Islands are a chain of islands between the Kamchatka Peninsula and the island of Hokkaido separating the Okhotsk Sea from the Pacific Ocean. Their length is about 1200 km. Total area is 15.6 thousand sq. km. To the south of them, there's the state border of the Russian Federation and Japan. The islands form two parallel ridges: Big Kuril and Small Kuril. They include 56 islands. The islands have an important military-strategic and economic importance.

Geographically, the Kuril Islands are a part of Sakhalin region of Russia. The southern islands of the archipelago are Etorofu, Shikotan and Small Kuril Ridge.

Commercial reserves of non-ferrous metals, mercury, natural gas, and oil are explored on the islands and in the coastal zone. Iturup Island, near the volcano Kudryavyi, has the richest of the world's known mineral rhenium deposit (rare metal, the cost of 1 kg is $ 5,000 USA). Thanks to this, Russia is ranked third in the world in natural reserves of rhenium (after Chile and the United States). General gold resources on the Kuril Islands are estimated as 1867 tons, silver - 9284 tons, titanium - 39.7 million tons, iron - 273 million tons.

History of the territorial conflict between Russia and Japan:

- After the defeat in 1905 in the Russian-Japanese war Russia gave Japan the southern part of Sakhalin;

- In February 1945, the Soviet Union promised the US and the UK to start a war with Japan, provided the return of Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands;

- February 2, 1946. Decree of Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on the formation of the Southern Sakhalin and the Kuril islands into the South Sakhalin region as part of the Khabarovsk Territory of the RSFSR;

- In 1956, the Soviet Union and Japan adopted a Joint agreement formally ending the war between the two countries and giving Japan the Small Kuril Ridge islands and Shikotan. But the agreement wasn't signed, however, because it provided that Japan would renounce the right to Iturup and Kunashir, and because of that the US had threatened not to give Japan the island of Okinawa.

Russia's position

The Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed the official position of the Russian military-political leadership in 2005, saying that the ownership of the islands was determined by the outcome of the Second World War, and in that sense, Russia is going to discuss this question with no one. But in 2012 he made a very encouraging for the Japanese statement saying that the dispute should be resolved on the basis of a compromise that would satisfy both sides. "Something like Hikiwake. Hikiwake is a term of judo, when either party failed to achieve victory," said the President.

At the same time, the Government of the Russian Federation has repeatedly stated that the sovereignty of the South Kuril Islands is not negotiable, and Russia will strengthen its presence on them taking all the necessary efforts. In particular, the Federal Target Program "Social and economic development of the Kuril Islands" has been carried out, due to which infrastructure facilities have been actively constructed, and aquaculture facilities, kindergartens and hospitals are planned to build on the former Japanese "Northern Territories."

Japan's position

Every prime minister, every winning party is set to return the Kuril Islands. At the same time, there are parties in Japan that claim not only the Southern Kurils, but all the Kuril islands up to Kamchatka and the southern part of Sakhalin Island. A political movement for the return of the "Northern Territories" is also organized in Japan conducting its regular propaganda activities.

The Japanese pretend that there is no border with Russia in the area of the Kuril Islands. The Russian-owned South Kuril Islands are shown as the territory of Japan on all maps and postcards. Japanese mayors and police chiefs are appointed on these islands. Children in Japanese schools learn Russian - in case the islands return to Japan. Moreover, young kids in kindergartens are taught to show "Northern Territories" on the map. Thus the idea that Japan does not end here is supported.

By decision of the Government of Japan, starting from February 7, 1982, the "Day of the Northern Territories" is annually celebrated in the country. This day in 1855, Treaty of Shimoda, the first Russian-Japanese treaty, was signed, according to which the Southern Kuril islands Etorofu, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai were given to Japan. This day, a "national rally for the return of the Northern Territories" is traditionally held which is attended by Prime Minister and government ministers, members of parliament from the ruling and opposition political parties, former residents of the southern part of the Kuril Islands. Dozens of right-wing groups' agitation buses painted with slogans and under militaristic flags and having powerful speakers, drive into the streets of the Japanese capital this day cruising between the parliament and the Russian Embassy.

Editorial Staff