National

77% of Russians oppose handover of disputed islands off Hokkaido to Japan

JIJI

Seventy-seven percent of Russians oppose handing over a group of disputed islands to Japan while just 14 percent support such a move, a survey has shown.

The survey released Monday by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, a government-affiliated body, asked respondents whether Russia should hand over four islands off Hokkaido, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the southern Kuril Islands in Russia.

Of the total respondents, 31 percent said they generally disagree with the idea of handing over the islands, while 46 percent said they are vehemently against such an action.

On reasons for disapproving a handover, 29 percent said the islands are part of Russia because the territorial issue has been resolved, while 10 percent said Russia acquired the islands as a result of World War II.

Only 4 percent of all respondents said Russia should definitely hand over the islands to Japan, and 10 percent partially agreed with the idea.

Seventy-nine percent said they know Japan has been asking for the return of the islands.

Regarding bilateral negotiations on the territorial dispute, 51 percent said the two countries should continue talks to reach a result acceptable to both even if the discussions take time, up from 34 percent in a similar survey in 2009.

The result indicates an increase in Russians who see bilateral talks as being meaningful.

The Japan-claimed territory includes the Habomai group of islets and the islands of Shikotan, Etorofu and Kunashiri, which were seized by Soviet troops in the closing days of World War II.

The dispute has prevented the two sides from concluding a postwar peace treaty.

The survey, conducted in November last year, covered 1,600 people.