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Japan’s position on Kuril Islands remains unchanged — top diplomat

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi earlier unveiled the 2020 Diplomatic Bluebook that assigns "the Northern Territories" to Japan

TOKYO, May 22. /TASS/. Tokyo’s position on the southern Kuril Islands and the peace treaty issue has not changed, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said at a press conference on Friday.

Motegi earlier unveiled the 2020 Diplomatic Bluebook, which is scheduled to be published in the fall. The report says that "the Northern Territories [which is what the southern Kuril Islands are called in Japan — TASS] include the islands under Japan’s sovereignty."

"Our position on the Northern Territories and peace treaty talks has not changed," Motegi told reporters.

"Japan’s basic position is that we intend to continue talks in order to resolve the territorial dispute and sign a peace treaty. We have several times discussed the issue with Russian [Foreign] Minister Lavrov. Our approaches do differ but we both are guided by an agreement made by our leaders, which points to the need to hold talks based on the 1956 Joint Declaration," the Japanese top diplomat emphasized.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on May 21 that Japan’s move to include its sovereignty claims on the southern Kuril Islands in the report ran counter to the goal of improving relations with Russia, set by the Japanese authorities.

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.

In November 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed that the two countries would speed up peace treaty talks based on the 1956 Joint Declaration.