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TOKYO, February 1. /TASS/. Russia’s military presence in the southern part of the Kuril Islands is not an obstacle for negotiations on a peace treaty with Japan, Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, said on Wednesday answering lawmakers’ questions in the lower house of parliament.
"The Russian military was present in the four islands earlier as well. This runs counter to our stance, and we have repeatedly notified the Russian side of that. However, that does not mean that we should stop the negotiations on a peace treaty with Russia," he said. Abe emphasized that without an understanding on the part of Russians living in the Kuril Islands it will be impossible to resolve the peace treaty issue.
In 2016, Russia deployed its Bastion and Bal coastal missile systems to the southern Kuril Islands of Iturup and Kunashir. In 2015, the Tor-M2U anti-missile systems were put on combat duty there. Moscow is currently mulling the establishment of the Pacific Fleet’s naval base in the Greater Kuril Ridge.
In November 2016, Russian Presidential Spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that the deployment of Russia’s missile systems to the Kuril Islands was well founded, but this should not affect the talks with Tokyo, including on a peace treaty. "I advise you to address the question (about missile deployment) to our counterparts at the Defense Ministry. Certainly, it does have a reason," Peskov said. "At the same time, in our view, this should in no way harm the fast trends that there have developed in our relations with Tokyo," Peskov said.
Russia and Japan have been in talks to sign a peace treaty since the middle of last century. The main stumbling block is sovereignty over the southern part of the Kuril Islands. Japan keeps disputing sovereignty over the Iturup, Kunashir and Shikotan islands and the uninhabited string of small islands Habomai. In 1956, the two countries signed a joint declaration to terminate the state of war between the two countries and restored diplomatic and other relations between them. The issue of the Kuril islands remained unresolved, though. In that declaration the Soviet Union said that in a goodwill gesture it might consider the handover of two islands, Shikotan and Habomai, after the conclusion of a peace treaty.