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Allow me to reply to the four points that Thomas Schoenbaum says, in his May 21 letter (“Positions on Kurils not binding“), were “inaccuracies” in my May 12 article (“Northern Territories dispute“). First, while Dean Acheson was U.S. secretary of state at the time of the negotiations with Japan on the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, John Foster Dulles had been specifically appointed by President Harry Truman to handle the negotiations. To emphasize Dulles’ role in the treaty rather than Acheson’s is hardly an inaccuracy.

Second, in that treaty, Japan unequivocally renounced all right, claim and title to the “Kurile Islands (Chishima Retto).” The fact that Moscow opposed that treaty for various reasons does not in any way deny the fact of renunciation. In any case, Moscow has since said it recognizes the treaty.

Third, to say that Japan’s former willingness to settle for the return of two of the four disputed islands — a key point in my article — has no legal significance is meaningless. Of course, they were not embodied in any formal legal agreement with Moscow, because if they had been, there would be no dispute today. But they were embodied in Japan’s formal negotiating position, later capriciously amended by Tokyo to a demand for four islands, for the Matsumoto/Malik talks 1954-55.

Fourth, Moscow may have subsequently violated many legally binding norms of international behavior, but that has little to do with the Northern Territories dispute. Besides, did not Tokyo support U.S. behavior in Iraq?

gregory clark

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