Clash between Japan and Russia looms as Tokyo steps up Kuril Island claims: ‘Russian Army is illegal occupier’
After several Japanese politicians recently stated the disputed Kuril Islands are part of Japan’s territory, Tokyo has now moved to officially declare that the entire Kuril Island chain is Japanese sovereign territory.
In fact, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said the islands are illegally occupied by the Russian Army.
Over the last few decades, the Japanese Government has refrained from such bold claims, largely not to damage Japanese-Russian relations, but following the Invasion of Ukraine and Japanese sanctions on Russia, diplomatic relations between the two countries have reached a low point.
Last week the Russian government told Japan it is ending negotiations to sign a formal World War II peace treaty because of Tokyo’s efforts to exploit the Ukraine war to claim the Kuril Islands belong to Japan.
“The Russian side, in the current conditions, does not intend to continue talks with Japan on the peace treaty,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Russia and Japan have never formally signed a peace treaty to end World War II.
One of the key issues is competing claims over territorial rights to the Kuril Islands, which Tokyo calls its Northern Territories. Soviet troops seized them from Japan at the end of the war, and Russia still occupies the island group.
However, in March Fumio Kishida, Japan’s prime minister, said that southern Kuril Islands are a sovereign part of his country, and not part of Russia, which has controlled the group of islands since 1945.
Speaking in the Diet earlier, Kishida told lawmakers the Kuril Islands are “original territories of Japan”.
The islands have been a point of controversy between Japan and the Russia for decades. Moscow took control of the islands after World War II in 1945.
In recent years, the Japanese government had refrained from referring to the islands as its “original territories” in order to avoid upsetting the Russian government.
However, following the global anti-Moscow sentiment since the invasion of Ukraine, the Japanese government has reinstated its historic claim on the silands.
“The Northern Territories belong to Japan. They are the territory on which Japan has sovereignty,” Kishida said.
In fact, on 29 February, on the second day of the Russian invasion, Japan’s foreign minister, Hideki Uyama, even went so far to say that Russia had “occupied” the southern part of the Kuril Islands, thereby violating international law.