MOSCOW, May 10. /TASS/. Reaching an agreement with Tokyo on the peace treaty issue remains a difficult task, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said following talks with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono on Friday.
"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."
"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," he went on to say. "I think our Japanese neighbors share the opinion that we need to move in that direction," Lavrov added. "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," he noted.
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 World War II. The Kuril Islands issue remains the sticking point since after WWII the islands were handed over to the Soviet Union while Japan laid claims to the four southern islands. In 1956, the two countries signed a joint declaration on ending the state of war and restoring diplomatic and all other relations, however, a peace treaty has still not been reached. Moscow has stated many times that Russia’s sovereignty over the islands cannot be called into question.
On November 14, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a meeting on the sidelines 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, Sergey Lavrov and Taro Kono, oversee the negotiations.
The Joint Declaration said that the Soviet government was ready to hand Shikotan Island and a group of small islands over to Japan, adding that Tokyo would get actual control of the islands after a peace treaty was signed. However, after Japan and the United States had signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security in 1960, the Soviet Union withdrew its obligation to hand over the islands. A Soviet government’s memorandum dated January 27, 1960, said that those islands would only be handed over to Japan if all foreign troops were pulled out of the country.