• Staff Report


The government should take a realistic approach instead of demanding the collective return of all four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, panelists at a discussion said Monday in Tokyo.

“A deal for the collective return of all four islands is a daydream. Repeating it millions of times won’t solve the issue,” Muneo Suzuki, a Lower House member, said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

Suzuki, former deputy chief Cabinet secretary, suggested that Japan continue to claim the rights to Kunashiri, Etorofu and Shikotan islands and the Habomai islets, but proceed with getting back a portion of the territory if Russia agrees.

While former Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi was reprimanded last week for allegedly saying in an interview that Tokyo could settle for a partial return of the four islands, Suzuki, a Hokkaido native, said the government should “take some risks” if it wants to make progress in the stalemated talks.

Tsukuba University’s Itsuro Nakamura proposed in the discussion that Japan and Russia could designate the four islands as an “ecological reserve” and jointly administer the area.

Meanwhile, Kazuhiko Togo, a former director general of the Foreign Ministry’s European affairs division, said the scheduled visit to Tokyo by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin next month is unlikely to bring about substantial progress.

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