TOKYO, October 6. /TASS/. An expert on relations with Russia close to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former member of parliament, Muneo Suzuki, favors solving the problem of a peace treaty with Moscow on the basis of the provisions of the 1956 Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration that have not been implemented to date. He said as much in an interview with TASS commenting on the talks between the two countries that have intensified recently.
Expert calls for pragmatic approach
The former lawmaker, in particular, praised the plan published by an influential newspaper Yomiuri on September 23, under which the Japanese government is reportedly ready to sign a peace treaty while acquiring only the Southern Kuril island of Shikotan and the adjacent uninhabited Habomai ridge, which is considered a single island at the talks. The Soviet Union expressed readiness in the Joint Declaration of 1956 to hand over these territories to Japan after signing a peace treaty. According to the plan outlined by the newspaper, Tokyo is allegedly ready to create a joint economic activities zone on the remaining Southern Kuril islands of Iturup and Kunashir with the free travel regime for Japanese nationals. The Japanese government has officially denied the authenticity of this report.
"The Yomiuri report is one of the options of a realistic solution to the problem," Suzuki said. "If we launch on this basis the joint economic activities on all four islands, carry out free travels of former Japanese citizens there, introduce Japanese technologies in various areas, Russia will treat our country with greater understanding," he added.
"Prime Minister Abe, at a meeting with President Putin in Vladivostok on September 2, spoke out in favor of ‘an approach (to the bilateral talks) on the basis of new ideas," the expert said. "That means that we will not make progress if we only argue about the sovereignty and ownership of the islands. It is necessary to think about the pragmatic solution to the problem. We need to find wisdom and make sure that it is advantageous to both Russia and Japan. There is no other way."
"I believe we will be able to resolve the territorial issue on the basis of future-oriented cooperation between Japan, which possesses the world’s best applied technologies, and Russia, a great power with the world’s largest energy and natural resources. We need to solve the issue with the two islands in the first place and then agree on what to do with the remaining two," he said.
Muneo Suzuki was an influential lawmaker at the end of the 1990s holding various ministerial posts and essentially oversaw Tokyo’s diplomacy towards Russia. In recent years, he has actively communicated with Prime Minister Abe and, according to well-informed sources, held six rounds of consultations with him on the talks with Russia. In late September, the Japanese premier publicly stated that he intends to actively use Suzuki’s experience and recommendations in the development of relations with Russia.
Russia and Japan have no peace treaty signed after World War II. The settlement of this problem inherited by Russia’s diplomacy from the Soviet Union is hampered by the years-long dispute over the four islands of Russia’s Southern Kurils - Shikotan, Habomai, Iturup and Kunashir, which Japan calls its northern territories.
After World War II, in September 1945, Japan signed its surrender, and in February 1946, the Kuril Islands were declared territories of the Soviet Union. In 1956, the USSR and Japan signed a Joint Declaration thus re-establishing bilateral diplomatic, trade and other kinds of relations after World War II. According to the document, the USSR unilaterally expressed readiness to return the Shikotan and Hamobai islands as a gesture of good will, but only after signing a peace treaty. This deal was rejected by Japan that, in the context of the Cold War, claimed the Kunashir and Iturup islands as well.
In early September, Putin and Abe met in Russia’s Vladivostok during the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) and agreed to step up bilateral talks. They decided to meet in Peru at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November. In December, the Russian leader is expected to pay a visit to Japan.