MOSCOW, March 21. /TASS/. Moscow and Tokyo are just beginning their journey to make a peace treaty and significant differences between them still remain, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov said on Thursday, opening consultations with his Japanese counterpart Takeo Mori.
"I must say that we are just beginning our journey of negotiations and significant differences in our approaches still remain," he said.
Morgulov pointed out that the Russian and Japanese foreign ministers, Sergey Lavrov and Taro Kono, had held two rounds of talks on the peace treaty issue, clarifying the two country’s positions and discussing the historical and political aspects of the issue.
Addressing this Japanese counterpart, the Russian deputy foreign minister suggested thoroughly considering issues outlined by the two top diplomats.
Peace treaty 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.