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There seems to be little chance that Russia will ever give back any part of the four islands it seized from Japan at the end of World War II, but the Japanese government, as well as some mainstream media, continues to act as if the possibility exists. Prior to last week’s meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which showed no meaningful progress on the matter or on a proposed peace treaty, either, Kyodo News reported that the government will continue to work on retrieving the islands, which Japan calls the Northern Territories and Russia the Southern Kurils, although one Japanese official admitted they could only hope for two. In that regard, Putin’s concern is whether the U.S. military will put facilities on any land returned to Japan. The Sankei Shimbun quoted Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez, the senior U.S. military representative in Japan, as saying that there are no plans to put bases on any of the islands “at the moment.”

This use of qualified statements by the U.S. and Japan characterizes media discussions on their security alliance, which is why it’s difficult to understand what’s going on. Author Koji Yabe has written several books about the U.S.-Japan alliance, and the latest, “Shitte wa Ikenai 2” (“You’re Not Supposed to Know 2”), was published in November. Since then, he’s been making the rounds to promote it, including a session at the Japan Press Club, but the mainstream media has avoided talking about his findings.

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