MOSCOW – The Russian government has no plans to change a Russian-Japanese fisheries accord allowing Japanese fishermen to operate in waters close to the disputed Russian-held islands off northern Japan, a Russian government source said Saturday.
The Russian parliament, concerned about ramifications of the fisheries pact on Russia’s position in the territorial dispute, has demanded that the Russian government renegotiate the agreement, which has been in force since 1998.
The source said the Russian Foreign Ministry plans to notify the State Duma shortly of the government decision, and that the government expects the parliament’s support.
The Russian Foreign Ministry decided to let the fisheries agreement stand, apparently out of concern that renegotiation could jeopardize the Russian position in its territorial dispute with Japan.
The fisheries accord, which was automatically extended in May for one year, allows Japanese fishermen to operate within the coastal waters of the disputed Northern Territories — known in Russia as the Southern Kurils — in return for “cooperation fees” from Japan.
Under pressure from Japan, the Russian government avoided the issue of sovereignty over the islands to give a legal basis for Japanese fishermen to operate in the coastal waters of the disputed islands.
Last April, the State Duma demanded a revision of the fisheries accord, charging that Russian authorities could not prevent illegal fishing because the agreement does not stipulate that Russia has the right to supervise Japanese fishing vessels operating in the disputed waters.
The Duma was also unhappy that Russian negotiators allowed the use of the Japanese name — Habomai — for one portion of the disputed islands in the agreement.
The Russian government source said illegal operations by Japanese fishermen has decreased and that cooperation fees paid by Japan have been put to good use in Russia.
The territorial dispute over the Northern Territories — occupied by Soviet troops at the end of World War II — has become the key point of disagreement in overall ties between Japan and Russia.
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