Abe, Putin to accelerate WWII treaty talks stalled by island row
SINGAPORE, Nov 15, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Russia and Japan have agreed to
accelerate talks to formally end World War II hostilities, using a Soviet-era
peace declaration as their starting point and throwing into doubt the fate of
four disputed islands.
The two countries are still technically at war, with neither side
historically prepared to budge on a row over the ownership of the islands
seized by Russia in the closing days of the conflict.
President Vladimir Putin first suggested the two countries sign a peace
treaty “without any preconditions” in September but this was coolly received
Diplomatic efforts have accelerated in recent months however and, after
talks in Singapore Wednesday between Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo
Abe, progress was announced.
Putin said Russia had “resumed dialogue with our Japanese partners on the
basis of the 1956 declaration, exactly what our Japanese partners asked us to
“We are ready to work with them.”
Japanese foreign ministry spokesman Takeshi Osuga confirmed both sides had
agreed to push ahead with talks.
“Both leaders agreed to accelerate the negotiation of a peace treaty on the
basis of the Japan USSR joint declaration of 1956,” he told reporters on
The 1956 declaration restored diplomatic ties but Tokyo and Russia stopped
short of signing a formal peace treaty due to the territorial row.
At the time Russia offered to give Japan the two smallest islands in the
strategically-located Kuril chain, occupied by Soviet troops at the end of
the war in 1945, in exchange for agreeing to a treaty and Moscow keeping the
But this idea was rejected by Japan, which still claims the entire chain.
Some Japanese media interpreted Thursday’s announcement as a shift in
Tokyo’s historical position, meaning that Abe might ultimately be willing to
give up some territory in exchange for reaching a deal.
Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga hailed the news as
“extremely significant”. “The government has always kept a policy direction
of staying flexible… There is no change to this point.”
Historically, Japan insists the islands, which were once inhabited by the
Ainu indigenous people, have never belonged to anyone else.
Russia considers them spoils of war as agreed between then US president
Franklin Roosevelt and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1945.
Strategically, control of the islands gives Russia year-round access to the
Pacific Ocean for its Pacific fleet of warships and submarines based in
Vladivostok, as the surrounding water does not freeze in winter.