TOKYO, December 1. /TASS/. A rally demanding the return of the "northern territories," a term used in Japan to refer to the southern part of the Kuril Islands, was held in Tokyo on Sunday, NHK, or Japan’s public broadcaster, reported.
According to NHK, about 500 people, including former Japanese residents of these territories, took part in the rally. The government was represented by the minister in charge of Okinawa and Northern Territories affairs, Seiichi Eto. "We will continue to work towards mutual understanding and fully support diplomatic talks [on that matter]," he said at the rally.
The governor of Japan’s northernmost Hokkaido prefecture, who also took part in the rally, said he hoped "with all the heart" that "the northern territories will be returned [to Japan] as soon as possible." After the rally, participants marched around Tokyo’s central areas.
Russia and Japan have been negotiating a peace treaty after World War II since the mid-20th century. The main stumbling block to this is the issue of the ownership of the southern Kuril Islands. After the end of World War II, all Kuril Islands were incorporated into the Soviet Union. However, Japan challenged the ownership of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan islands and a number of uninhibited islands of the Lesser Kuril Ridge called the Habomai Islands in Japan.
In 1956, the Soviet Union and Japan signed a joint declaration on ceasing the state of war. The two countries resumed diplomatic and other relations, however no peace treaty has been signed until now. The Soviet Union committed to paper in the declaration its readiness to hand over Shikotan and Habomai to Japan as a gesture of good will after the peace treaty is ultimately signed. The declaration was ratified by the two countries’ parliaments on December 8, 1956.
The Japanese side however has been protesting against Russia’s activities in the southern part of the Kuril Islands while Moscow has been insisting that Russia’s sovereignty over these territories is unchallengeable as it is committed to paper in international documents.