TOKYO, July 27 (Itar-Tass) —— Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba believes the issue of South Kuriles should be discussed in a calm atmosphere, and its settlement will “cement forever” relations between Moscow and Tokyo.
“Japan’s and Russia’s positions on the affiliation of the South Kurile archipelago are different,” he said said on Thursday in an exclusive interview with Itar-Tass ahead of his visit to Russia, during which he plans to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. “For our two countries, which want to be partners in the Asia Pacific region, this territorial problem is negative heritage which we cannot evade and which is to be overcome.”
“This is not just a problem of state sovereignty over four islands,” the Japanese foreign minister noted. This is a humanitarian problem of 17,000 former dwellers who used to live in their homeland before the Second World War. They were forced to leave the islands after the war was over. Former resident are still unable to return to their native land. Half of them have already died over these years. Their average age exceeds 77 years and they are longing to return.”
“Exerting efforts to build relations of confidence, Japan and Russia must seek mutually acceptable solutions to settle the territorial problem in a calm atmosphere, on the basis of principles of law and justice, including international law,” Koichiro Gemba said. “I am confident that through the settlement of the territorial problem and signing of a peace treaty Russia will cement its relations with Japan, its most reliable partner in the Asia Pacific region, forever.”