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What Suga, what Abe

No matter who holds the post of prime minister, and no matter how Japan's rhetoric about the Kuril Islands changes, their ownership cannot be disputed.

2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Northern Territories Day in Japan - it is celebrated on February 7 in honor of the conclusion of the Shimoda Treaty on Trade and Frontiers, through which Japan crossed the Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan islands and the Habomai group of islands. However, the past 2020 marked the emergence of two important factors that directly influenced the development of Russian-Japanese relations, the main problem of which remains territorial claims to Russia on the part of Japan. The first factor is the introduction of amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which relate to additional legislative consolidation of provisions on the preservation of territorial integrity. Russia. The second factor is associated with the coming to power in Japan of the new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who in turn intends to continue the course of his predecessor Shinzo Abe to conclude a peace treaty with Russia while transferring the South Kuriles to Japan, while demonstrating firm determination.

What Suga, what Abe
Photo: EastRussia

On October 26, 2020, within the walls of the Japanese parliament, the new Prime Minister of the country, Yoshihide Suga, made his first keynote speech. The Japanese prime minister stated the need to "put a final point in the negotiations on the northern territories (the Japanese name for the southern part of the Kuriles - V. Nikolaev)" and "strive for the comprehensive development of relations with Russia, including the signing of a peace treaty."

According to Suga, the subject of negotiations with Russia is the entire southern part of the Kuril Islands, which, according to him, are subject to the sovereignty of Japan. On December 1, Yoshihide Suga confirmed his intentions and outlined them as the main course of Japan.

A situation is emerging when Russia is once again faced with the territorial claims of another state. However, to what extent are the attempts by Japan on the territorial integrity of Russia justified? And what could such a territorial concession threaten with?

From the history of the problem of belonging to the Kuril Islands

By the right of the discoverer, the Kuril Islands belonged to Russia until the 1875th century, when, as a result of the conclusion of the Petersburg Treaty of 1904, the Russian Empire completely transferred the islands to Japan in exchange for the Japanese side's refusal of claims to the Russian island of Sakhalin, the southern part of which was later lost by Russia due to defeat in the Russo-Japanese War (1905-XNUMX).

At the end of World War II, the USSR, more than justifiably and rightfully entered the number of winners. Japan, as a defeated state, returned South Sakhalin and all the Kuril Islands to Russia in accordance with the decisions of the Yalta Conference of the Allied Powers and the 1945 Potsdam Declaration.

Formally, the USSR was in a state of war with Japan until 1956, when the Joint Declaration was signed and ratified by both sides, which ended the state of war between the two states and restored diplomatic and consular relations. The declaration stipulated that "as a sign of goodwill," the Soviet Union would transfer the islands of Shikotan and Habomai to Japan on the condition that in fact their transfer to Japan's control would be made after the conclusion of a peace treaty.

The conclusion of peace was prevented by the American-Japanese treaty on the maintenance of the American military presence in Japan in 1960. After that, the USSR officially refused to give the islands to Japan until the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the territory of the Japanese state.

For several decades, the issue of a peace treaty and the ownership of the islands was not raised by either side. However, immediately after the collapse of the USSR, Japan periodically makes territorial claims to the Russian Federation, as the legal successor of the USSR, under the pretext of concluding a peace treaty.

The current state of Russian-Japanese relations and the territorial dispute

Russian-Japanese relations at the present stage are conditioned by a number of important factors - the belonging of both countries to the Asia-Pacific region (APR); the dependence of Japan's foreign policy on the United States and the presence of American troops in the country; the absence of a peace treaty and the presence of territorial claims against Russia.

The absence of a peace treaty did not prevent Russia and Japan from developing trade and economic relations for decades, which worsened only after Japan joined the anti-Russian economic sanctions in 2014. Compared to the US and EU sanctions, Japan's sanctions are quite loyal and also do not interfere with concluding with Russian economic agreements. Already in April 2015, a number of important documents were signed on mutual cooperation between Russia and Japan, which, among other things, related to such an important industry as nuclear energy.

Since 2016, Russian-Japanese relations have begun to actively acquire positive dynamics. In particular, negotiations were continued to conclude a peace treaty. The firm intentions of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to sign the treaty were combined with the unconcealed desire of the Japanese side to obtain the "northern territories", i.e. Russian southern Kuril Islands, namely, the Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan islands and the Habomai group of islands. This fact has complicated the situation both around the preparations for the conclusion of a peace treaty, and in general in relations between the countries.

Ernest Bogaturovich Petrosyan, Head of the Department of International Relations and International Law at the Moscow State University of Economics, commented on the current state of Russian-Japanese relations: “Japan has absolutely no grounds for making territorial claims against Russia. This is the first time in world practice when an aggressor who has suffered a defeat in a war dares to put an ultimatum to the winner. Russia does not need to conclude a peace treaty with Japan, since the end of the war and the establishment of diplomatic relations between the countries was confirmed by the 1956 Soviet-Japanese declaration. If Japan needs this peace treaty, then this is only the problem of the Japanese leadership. In any case, Japan, with its difficult relations with China and South Korea, will not initiate the deterioration of relations with Russia now.

Significance of the Kuril Islands for Russia

The transfer of the Kuriles threatens with serious consequences for Russia. There are a number of reasons that unambiguously indicate the need to preserve all the Kuril Islands within the Russian Federation.

First, the transfer of the South Kuriles to Japan means a revision of the results of World War II and a violation of international law enshrined in the agreements of the victorious countries and in the 1956 Declaration.

Secondly, the voluntary surrender of its territories to another state for Russia entails a loss of the country's international authority and will create a precedent in international law, according to which, in violation of existing treaties and agreements, through constant ultimatums, it will be possible to demand that Russia transfer its territory to any state. This will give rise to a number of international problems.

Thirdly, from a legal point of view, the transfer of the islands is a violation of not only international, but also Russian law, since this contradicts Art. 4 p. 3 and art. 67 paragraph 2.1 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, according to which violation of the territorial integrity of Russia is prohibited, and the country's leadership is obliged to ensure it.

Fourth, it is necessary to pay attention to the fact that Japan is under the strong influence of the United States, which is interested in containing and weakening Russia in the AP region. It should be noted the words of the commander of the American troops stationed in Japan, Lieutenant General Kevin Schneider. On December 2, Schneider announced that Tokyo would change its approach to Moscow under the new government. The American general attributes this to an alleged increase in Russia's activity on the borders with Japan. At the same time, there are no guarantees that after the transfer of the islands, they will not be used for basing US and NATO military facilities.

Fifth, in the event of the transfer of the Kuril Islands, the Sea of ​​Okhotsk, recognized by the UN Commission as Russia's internal sea, ceases to be such. This deprives Russia of the exclusive right to the resources of the subsoil and the seabed of the Sea of ​​Okhotsk, and also worsens the position of our country in the APR.

Sixth, the loss of the Kuril Islands by Russia will deal a blow to the spiritual values ​​of the Russian people. The Kuril Islands are an inseparable part of the Far East and all of Russia. The Kurils were discovered by Russian explorers and travelers, thousands of Red Army soldiers died for the return of these lands during the Second World War. Today, the preservation of the territorial integrity of Russia is of great importance for the patriotic feelings of Russian citizens.

Thus, in conditions of growing international contradictions and general tension, the only correct policy of Russia can only be the position of refusing any territorial concessions. The state, which claims to be reckoned with, is obliged in such a situation to remain true to its own principles to the end.

In turn, the statements of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga not only do not contribute to a friendly and trusting atmosphere of cooperation and negotiations, but also threaten the possibility of concluding a peace treaty, the signing of which, however, Russia now has no objective need.

Japan's territorial claims to Russia have no international legal, moral, historical or any other grounds. The transfer of the Russian Kuril Islands cannot be carried out under any circumstances, since this will entail very serious consequences. The Kuril Islands are and will always be of great importance in all respects, both for the Far East and for the whole of Russia.

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