Japan will once again describe Russia's decadeslong hold over a string of disputed islands off Hokkaido as an "illegal occupation" in an annual foreign policy report as bilateral ties sour following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

The classification will appear for the first time since 2003, reflecting Tokyo's shift away from a conciliatory policy stance toward Moscow, taken in the hope that progress in negotiations over the islands off Hokkaido could lead to their return in the future, to a more hostile position. A draft of the Diplomatic Bluebook for 2022 was obtained by Kyodo News.

The ownership dispute over the islands — known as Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group in Japan — stems from their seizure by the Soviet Union in the weeks following Japan's World War II surrender on Aug. 15, 1945. It has prevented the two nations from signing a peace treaty.