Regarding the Jan. 14 Kyodo article “Territory settlement ‘impossible’ now”: This is a very sad situation, especially for those Japanese wishing to return to the place of their birth. If you look at any of the media sites for Russian television, the point of view of the Russian populace is that the “Northern Territories” are legitimate spoils of war.
Like the Soviet Union before it, the Russian Federation has taken steps to change city names, erase landmarks that refer to previous Japanese claims and promote immigration to these remote areas. For Russians, these are fringe areas, and many would not want to relocate there. On the other hand, many Japanese feel that these lands were wrongfully taken after a declaration of surrender had taken place. They feel that at some future date, Russia will finally enter into an agreement signifying a formal “end of hostilities” and a peace treaty concluding the end of World War II, and that the Northern Territories will then be returned to Japan.
The problem is that there is no inducement for Russia to enter into such an agreement. Normalized relations as far as commerce is concerned are already in place — at least on the surface. Russia sees no reason to commit any further. The United States and Japan have a very strong alliance for defense and the former Soviet Union does not seem to be a threat. Militarily the U.S. is overextended, and the Russians do not believe that the U.S. would support Japan in any attempt to regain sovereignty over the Northern Territories.
Even though there is evidence that the “Southern Kuril Islands” in question were never included in the Kuril Island group, there is little hope that these territories will ever be returned to Japan. The only scenario that I can see where the Russians would return the Northern Territories would be if economic conditions within Russia became so severe that its government would agree to sell its interest in these areas. Japanese assistance to Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union did nothing to help regain these islands.
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