MOSCOW – Russia on Wednesday lodged a protest with Japan over recent remarks by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other senior Japanese officials about disputed islands off Hokkaido, saying they are “distorting” agreements by the two countries’ leaders.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov summoned Japan’s ambassador to Russia, Toyohisa Kozuki, to the Russian Foreign Ministry and told him that recent statements are distorting the essence of agreements between Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The protest came after Abe at a news conference last week spoke of the need to convince Russian residents of the islands that the sovereignty of their homes will change and that their lives will improve by living alongside Japanese people.
A major Japanese daily, quoting sources involved in the bilateral negotiations, reported earlier this week that Japan may propose to Russia that both sides renounce the right to demand compensation related to the islands, known in Japan as the Northern Territories and the Southern Kurils in Russia.
“Those statements are grossly distorting the essence of agreements between the leaders of Russia and Japan meant to accelerate the negotiating process on the basis of the 1956 Joint Declaration, and are misleading the two countries’ general public over the contents of negotiations,” the Tass news agency quoted the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying.
“These remarks cannot be viewed otherwise but as an attempt to artificially increase pressure around the peace treaty issue and to impose an own scenario of its resolution on the other side,” the ministry said, according to Tass.
Abe and Putin are expected to meet in Moscow later this month to advance negotiations for a postwar peace treaty. The long-standing dispute over the islands has prevented the two countries from concluding a pact.
In November, the two leaders agreed that they will accelerate talks based on a 1956 declaration that mentioned the transfer by Russia to Japan of Shikotan and the Habomai islet group following the conclusion of a peace treaty.
The Soviet Union seized the islands, as well as Etorofu and Kunashiri, following Japan’s surrender in World War II on Aug. 15, 1945.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the peace treaty issue “might be resolved in case a qualitatively new atmosphere in the Russian-Japanese relations is created.”
“It should be supported by the two nations and rest in full on Tokyo’s unconditional recognition of the results of World War II, including the Russian Federation’s sovereignty of the Southern Kuril Islands,” according to the statement carried by Tass.