Japan tried to buy isles before Soviet collapse: Ozawa

JIJI

Japan tried to buy the four disputed islands off Hokkaido from the former Soviet Union as proposed by an aide to then-President Mikhail Gorbachev, opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa said Saturday.

On an Internet program, Ozawa said that when he was secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, then in power at the time, he was approached by an aide to the Soviet leader with an offer to return the islands to Japan for money.

Ozawa, now leader of Seikatsu no To (People’s Life Party), said that he got the Finance Ministry to disburse “some trillion yen” and later visited Moscow.

However, Gorbachev ultimately ruled out the sale, saying that although somebody may have made such a proposal, he could not approve it, Ozawa said.

Ozawa did not reveal any further details but is believed to have attempted to close the deal before Gorbachev made his landmark visit to Japan in April 1991.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, Russian officials stated that it was in fact Ozawa who offered to buy the islands.

The Russian-held islands — Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group — were seized from Japan by Soviet troops in the closing days of World War II.

The wrangling over their ownership has prevented Japan and Russia from signing a peace treaty to formally end wartime hostilities.

  • chomskyite

    In other words: Ozawa wouldn’t cough up enough gold.

  • Spudator

    It sounds like this is the closest Japan has ever come to reclaiming the Northern Territories. At least Japan had something—money—to offer the Soviet Union in return for the islands at that time. Now it doesn’t seem to have anything to offer at all.

    Prime Minister Abe’s recent talks about talks on the island dispute with Russian President Vladimir Putin appear to have been nothing more than a PR stunt designed to kid the Japanese electorate that Abe is some kind of international statesman. Does anybody really believe that expending more hot air on the dispute is going to lead to Russia handing over something it doesn’t have to, possession being nine-tenths of the law, and that Japan doesn’t have the power—let alone the stomach—to take back by force?

    If Japan really wants the islands so much, it should take a leaf out of Ozawa’s book and offer Russia a deal. It needs to have something on the table that the Russians will find too tempting to refuse—not necessarily money, but at least something more concrete than the opportunity to normalise relations and cooperate on resource development.

    To be honest, I think Japan should just accept what is fast becoming ancient history and give up on the Northern Territories. It needs to be philosophical about the matter. It’s no secret that one of Stalin’s aims during the second world war was to occupy Hokkaido so that the Soviet Union would be in a position to occupy Honshu. If the war had gone differently and Japan hadn’t had the relative good fortune of being conquered by America, the entire country might have fallen into Soviet hands, or at least have been partitioned like Germany was. Japan’s post-war economic miracle would then probably never have happened and modern Japan would be nothing like it is today.

    Japan is lucky that the only territory it lost to the Soviet Union in World War II consisted of a few unimportant islands. It should accept the loss with a sigh of relief and move on.