• Kyodo

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Japan should accept Russia’s position in the decades-old territorial dispute and accept two of the four islands, as Moscow has no room for further compromise, a senior Russian lawmaker said Monday in an interview with Kyodo News.

“This is all Russia can do. It is meaningless to expect us to compromise further,” said Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the international affairs committee in the lower house of the State Duma.

Analysts say Kosachev’s view reflects that of President Vladimir Putin, who is slated to visit Japan in the first half of this year. Kosachev is a heavyweight on diplomatic issues within United Russia, the pro-Kremlin party that dominates the lower house.

The territorial dispute involves the islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri and Shikotan, and the Habomai islets, which the Soviet Union seized at the end of World War II.

Japan claims all the islands, but Russia maintains the issue only involves part of them.

The dispute has prevented the two nations from signing a peace treaty to end World War II.

Putin said last month he wants to settle the dispute in line with a 1956 pact between Japan and the Soviet Union, in which Moscow conceded only Shikotan and the Habomais.

Kosachev said the accord was “a courageous political decision,” although “unacceptable” for the Russian public.

Kosachev also criticized Japan for not compromising.

He said Russia holds sovereignty over the four islands and it has, in good faith, compromised by agreeing to return two of the islands, but Japan is uninterested.

Tokyo hopes to resolve the territorial dispute with Putin’s visit to Japan. But a breakthrough is unlikely as “Russian public opinion is more important in resolving the territorial dispute,” Kosachev said.

He said bilateral economic cooperation, including the oil pipeline from eastern Siberia and the construction of Japanese automobile manufacturing facilities in Russia, may eventually help change public opinion on the territorial dispute by creating jobs.

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