TOKYO, December 1. /TASS/. Japanese authorities intend to move step by step towards the settlement of the Southern Kuril Islands issue and signing a peace treaty with Russia, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said during a meeting with the people of Hokkaido Tuesday.
"Although 75 years have passed after the war [between Russia and Japan], the problem of the Northern Territories [the Southern Kuril Islands] remains unsolved and the peace treaty is still unsigned. We believe that this issue must be resolved as soon as possible," he said, according to NHK. "In September, during my phone call with Russian President [Vladimir] Putin, I informed him about my intent to reach a closure on this issue without handing it over to the future generations. We intend to move on, step by step, towards the resolution of the issue of the Northern Territories and towards the peace treaty, which is the main course for our country."
Moscow and Tokyo engage in talks on the peace treaty since the end of the World War II in the mid-20th century. The sovereignty of the Southern Kuril islands remains the main obstruction for this process. In 1945, the entire archipelago has become a part of the Soviet Union, but Japan challenges the sovereignty of islands Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and a group of minor uninhabited islands, known in Japan as Habomai. Russian Foreign Ministry underscored repeatedly that the Russian sovereignty over these islands has international legal ground and could not be challenged.