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Lavrov points to Russian army’s right to carry out activities on Kuril Islands

Russian top diplomat spoke following a "two-plus-two" meeting between the foreign and defense ministers of Russia and Japan

TOKYO, May 30. /TASS/. The Russian military conducts regular activities on the southern Kuril Islands, which are Russia’s sovereign territory, Russian top diplomat Sergey Lavrov said following a "two-plus-two" meeting between the foreign and defense ministers of Russia and Japan.

"As [Japanese Foreign] Minister [Taro] Kono has said, he voiced concern over Russia’s military activities on the southern Kuril Islands. In response, we reiterated our position that the Russian Armed Forces are active on their sovereign territory and they have the right to do that based on international law," Lavrov pointed out.

Kuril Islands issue

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 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.