Gregory Clark’s May 12 article, “Northern Territories dispute lives on self-righteous deadlock,” contains some inaccuracies:
First, the San Francisco Conference was held during the Truman administration, and the American in charge was Dean Atcheson, who was well-known for his anti-Japanese views.
Second, Japan’s renunciation of the Kuril Islands was not then and is not now legally binding on Japan vis-a-vis the Russian side. Under international law, a treaty is not binding on a nonparty who denounces it. The Soviet Union was not a party to the treaty and formally denounced it in 1952.
Third, the many different Japanese negotiating positions over the years — in 1956, for example, Japan for a time was willing to settle for the return of two of the four islands — have no legal significance since they were never embodied in any formal agreement with the Soviet Union/Russia.
Fourth, Clark’s article ignores the fact that the Soviet Union, as it took over the islands, subsequently violated many legally binding norms of international humanitarian law, human rights law and the laws of war.
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