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Japan keeps unchanged position in territory dispute with Russia

Earlier Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow considers that signing a peace treaty with Tokyo is not synonymous with solving the long-running territorial dispute

TOKYO, January 29. /TASS/. Position of the Japanese government, stating the outstanding territory dispute with Russia should be settled before signing of a peace treaty with Russia, remains unchanged, Japan’s Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs (as Japan calls the South Kuril Islands) Aiko Shimajiri said on Friday.

"As for settlement of the territory dispute and signing of a peace treaty, our position has not changed," the minister said adding the Japanese government would apply every effort to "develop the diplomatic dialogue with the Russian side, in order to settle the problem as soon as possible."

By this saying the Japanese minister responded to the statement made by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who earlier this week said Moscow considers that signing a peace treaty with Tokyo is not synonymous with solving the long-running territorial dispute.

"We do not consider that the peace treaty is synonymous with solving the territorial problem. This is a step that is needed for the relations between the two countries to be normal not only in fact but also in legal implementation," Lavrov said.

Lavrov also said the Russian president and Japan’s prime minister have agreed that the peace treaty should be necessarily among those issues that are due to be solved.

"We are interested in the closest and warmest relations with Japan, this is our important neighbor with which we have a broad network of trade and economic, humanitarian and cultural ties and many plans," Lavrov said.

On January 27, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda told a news conference in comments on a statement by the Russian foreign minister the Japanese government considers unacceptable Moscow’s stance on the Northern Territories. "We consider the position of the Russian side absolutely unacceptable," he said. "The position of the Japanese government on the issue was stated clearly, and we are not considering any concrete action in connection with these statements [of the Russian foreign minister]," he said, adding that Japan intended to continue "pursuing an adequate policy" in the territorial dispute.

Lavrov mentioned the only document that was signed and ratified by the two countries in 1956 was the so-called declaration that said a peace treaty should be signed. The document also said that then the Soviet Union could possibly hand over these two southern islands as a "gesture of good will." "This declaration first of all proceeded from the main thesis - it confirmed that the Soviet Union and Japan recognized the results of World War II," he said, adding that it was impossible to move forward without confirming this position.