I read Masami Ito’s Jan. 18 article, “Russian-held isles: so near, so far,” with great interest. Japan’s government claims that the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty does not apply to the four islands off Hokkaido, known as the Northern Territories. We hear stories that U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt secretly asked Soviet leader Josef Stalin to break the Nonaggression Pact between Japan and the Soviet Union in order to push Japanese forces out of “Manchukuo” and that, as a reward, Roosevelt promised the four northern islands to the Soviets.
Russia now believes that even if the 1945 Soviet occupation of the islands went against the treaty, the islands belong to Russia. I have visited the former Manchu State of China and learned of the terrible things that Imperial Japan did there. So I cannot criticize Russia’s attitude. If Japan had been in the Soviet position, what would Japan have done? What would Japan do now?
I am afraid that Russia will never return the islands to Japan and that the surviving former residents of the islands, whose average age is 77, will just have to live with that. We do need better understanding between Japan and Russia.
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