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US not denying likelihood of deploying missile shield on Kuril Islands, says Russian envoy

Sergei Ivanov higlighted that the US military announced having no such plans "so far"

KRABOZAVODSKOYE VILLAGE /Sakhalin Region/, February 26. /TASS/. The Kremlin believes that the US military has not rejected any possibility of deploying their missile shield systems on the southern Kuril Islands, should they be transferred to Japan, Russian Presidential Envoy for Nature Conservation, Environment and Transport Sergei Ivanov said on Tuesday.

"You have heard an answer of the American general [to the question of whether the United States plans to station a military base on Shikotan, if Russia transfers this island to Japan]: ‘No, we do not plan so far.’ I want to highlight that phrase ‘so far,"" Ivanov pointed out.

As the Russian envoy noted, "another US general" was so straightforward as to say that the Island of Iturup is ideally suited for deploying a missile shield system against North Korean missiles.

"Apparently, they treat us like fools. What North Korean missiles? This would target Russian missiles. The missile shield would be aimed against the Russian Federation," the presidential envoy stressed, noting that the statements to the effect that the US missile shield was allegedly aimed against Iran and North Korea were "fairytales for fools."

Commenting on the 1956 Soviet-Japanese Declaration, under which the Soviet Union admitted of the possibility to hand over Shikotan and several small islands of the Lesser Kuril Chain to Japan, the envoy said that "after this, … about 40 US military facilities, plus a large military base emerged on the territory of Japan," due to which the Soviet Union withdrew its signature from that document.

"A peace treaty implies good neighborly, good and friendly relations between the states, which signed that treaty. What peacefulness can we talk about today," the envoy stressed.

"You know, a question sometimes arises for me: perhaps, we should hold negotiations on a peace treaty not with Japan but with some other country? This may be more effective," the Russian envoy pointed out.

Russia-Japan peace treaty disagreements

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 key sticking point since after WWII the islands were handed over to the Soviet Union while Japan laid claims to the four southern islands.

In November 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 accelerate the pace of the peace negotiations based on the 1956 Joint Declaration. The document ended the state of war and said that the Soviet government was ready to hand Shikotan Island and a group of small islands called Habomai over to Japan on condition that Tokyo would take control of them once 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.

Russia has pointed out on numerous occasions that the document does not clarify handover conditions and thus required further clarification.