MOSCOW – A Russian Foreign Ministry official said Thursday that 1960 Soviet government documents demanding the pullout of all foreign troops from Japan as a condition for the return of disputed islands should be taken into account in any peace treaty talks between Moscow and Japan.
The documents that were referred to at a news conference by Maria Zakharova, director of the ministry’s information and press department, are a memorandum that was handed to Japanese representatives by Andrei Gromyko, then foreign minister of the now-defunct Soviet Union, and another related memorandum.
Zakharova made the remarks, apparently with U.S. troops stationed in Japan in mind.
The 1956 Japan-Soviet joint declaration stipulated that two of the four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, the Habomai islet group and Shikotan, be handed over to Japan after the conclusion of a bilateral peace treaty.
Angered by the January 1960 revision of the Japan-U.S. security treaty, however, the Soviet Union, in the 1960 documents in question, demanded the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Japan as a fresh condition for handing over the two islands. Japan rejected the demand.
At the news conference, Zakharova said that all issues, including those related to security, should be discussed in the Russia-Japan peace treaty negotiations.
All related diplomatic documents, including the Soviet government memorandums of Jan. 27, 1960, and Feb. 24 the same year, need to be taken into account in the negotiations, she added.
The four disputed islands were seized from Japan by Soviet troops at the end of World War II. The long-standing territorial row has prevented Tokyo and Moscow from concluding a peace treaty to formally end wartime hostilities.
At their meeting in Singapore last month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to accelerate the peace treaty talks based on the 1956 Japan-Soviet declaration. They met again early this month, in Buenos Aires, and agreed on a new framework for the negotiations, including the territorial issue. The negotiations are being led by Foreign Minister Taro Kono and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
Zakharova told the news conference there is no specific information yet on a schedule for a Lavrov-Kono meeting that is expected to take place in the lead-up to a possible Russia visit by Abe shortly after the turn of the year.
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