Connect with us

Politics

Putin offer to Japan to end WWII island dispute may just be trolling

Published

on


Russia Vladimir Putin Japan Shinzo Abe Kremlin Moscow
Russian
President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
at a joint news conference after a meeting at the Kremlin in
Moscow, May 26, 2018.

REUTERS/Grigory
Dukor


  • Japan and Russia have never formally concluded World
    War II because of a festering territorial dispute.
  • This month, Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to
    spontaneously propose a peace deal.
  • Experts think Putin may be “trolling,” and Japan seems
    skeptical of the offer.

Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to catch his Japanese
counterpart off guard earlier this month, when he offered to sign
a peace treaty before the end of the year “without any
preconditions” to settle a territorial dispute and finally,
formally end World War II.

The dispute centers on four islands at the southern end of the
Kuril chain, which stretches between the northern Japanese island
of Hokkaido and the Kamchatka Peninsula in eastern Russia.

Russia occupied the islands at the end of World War II, and
while the two countries ended the fighting and restored
relations, they never signed a peace treaty
because of the territorial dispute.


A general view shows the Island of Kunashir, one of four islands known as the Southern Kuriles in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Maltsev
The Island of Kunashir,
one of four disputed islands known as the Southern Kuriles in
Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, December 20,
2016.

Thomson
Reuters


The islands — Shikotan, Etorofu, Kunashiri, and the
Habo­mai islets — are called the Northern Territories by Japan.
Abe has mounted a serious effort to
resolve the issue and loosen Russia’s control of the
islands.

During an economic forum in the far eastern Russian city of
Vladivostok last week, Putin seemed to suddenly decide to settle
the matter, suggesting it to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
while both were on stage together.

“We have been trying to solve the territorial dispute for
70 years. We’ve been holding talks for 70 years,” Putin said at the forum, which was
also attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“An idea has just come into my head,” Putin added.

“Shinzo said: ‘Let’s change our approaches.’ Let’s! Let’s
conclude a peace agreement, not now but by year’s end without any
preconditions,” Putin said, drawing applause from the audience.

“It is not a joke,” he added.

‘Facilitate the solution’


Japan Russia Kuril Island dispute map
Russia
and Japan have still not formally ended World War II because of
territorial dispute.

Google
Maps


Putin said such a deal could
“facilitate the solution of all the problems which we have not
been able to solve during the past 70 years.”

Putin seemed to put the cart before the horse, offering to sign a
treaty first and then continue working on issues that are in
dispute.

“It is planned to sign the peace treaty first, and then,
proceeding from relations of peace, friendship and cooperation,
reach the needed consensuses,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov
said later that day.


A Russian vessel is seen off the coast of the Southern Kurile Island of Shikotan September 14, 2015. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
A
Russian vessel off the coast of the Southern Kuril Island of
Shikotan, September 14, 2015.

Thomson
Reuters


Abe acknowledged that Russia and
Japan had “a duty to future generations” but was noncommittal on
Putin’s offer.

“Let us walk together mindful of the questions, ‘If we
don’t do it now, then when?’ And ‘if we don’t do it, then who
will?'” Abe said. “We are both fully aware that it will not be
easy.”

Abe and Putin did not speak further after their appearance,
in part because of the Russian leader’s schedule, Peskov said at the time. (Putin seemed to knock his idea
later, saying it was “naive to think
that it can be solved quickly.”)

‘We shouldn’t get confused’


shinzo abe
Kent
Nishimura/Getty Images


Japan appears to view the offer with some
skepticism.

After the proposal was made, Japan’s chief Cabinet
secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said a peace deal should be
signed “after resolving the issue of the attribution of the Four
Northern Islands.”

Abe seemed to wave away the offer during a TV appearance on
Sunday.

“Japan maintains the basic stance of resolving the
territory issue first and then concluding a peace treaty,” he
said.”We shouldn’t get
confused only by some comments.”

For Japan, the islands are also a defense issue.


Yuzhno-Kurilsk, the main settlement on the Southern Kurile Island of Kunashir is pictured from the ferry Polaris as it approaches its port, September 14, 2015. The Southern Kuriles are referred to in Japan as the Northern Territories. Picture taken September 14, 2015. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Yuzhno-Kurilsk,
the main settlement on the Southern Kuril Island of Kunashir,
seen from the ferry Polaris as it approaches port, September 14,
2015.

Thomson
Reuters


In 2016, Russia deployed anti-ship missiles to two of the
disputed islands, and the next year Moscow upgraded an artillery
division stationed there.

In February, Russia cleared the way for the
deployment of manned and unmanned aircraft and command systems to
an airport on one of the islands, furthering what Japan sees as a
militarization effort.

“We have asked the Russian side to take particular measures
because Russia is building up its military potential on the four
northern islands,” Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera
said in August, after meeting
his Russian counterpart in Moscow.

Russia has criticized Tokyo for plans to deploy US-made
Aegis anti-missile systems in northern Japan. Japan said the
systems are to counter North Korean missiles, while Russia
believes they could have
offensive purposes. (At the forum this month, Putin said Russia
was “concerned” about US ballistic-missile defenses
in the Pacific.)

‘This is called trolling’


Clouds partly cover the volcano Tyatya on the Southern Kurile Island of Kunashir September 14, 2015.  REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo
Clouds
partly cover the volcano Tyatya on the Southern Kuril Island of
Kunashir, September 14, 2015.

Thomson
Reuters


Officials involved and other experts have cast doubt on the
sincerity of Putin’s proposal.

“This is called trolling. Putin does not expect anything,”
Georgy Kunadze, who was Russian deputy foreign minister in the
early 1990s, told a Russian radio station
after the proposal was made.

Kunadze added that the offer was a political non-starter
for Abe, and Putin too could face backlash at home if he gives up
the islands.

Alexander Gabuev, head of the Russia in the Asia Pacific
Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, linked the proposal to
foundering efforts to stoke investment on the disputed
islands.

“This appears to be just emotions and an attempt to put
pressure rather than anything real,” he told AFP.

Shigeru Ishiba, a former Japanese defense minister and
Abe’s rival for leadership of their party, also tried to temper
expectations, pointing to Russia’s strategic interests.

“Putin’s territorial fixation is extraordinarily strong,” he
said during the TV program
with Abe.

Continue Reading
Advertisement Find your dream job

Trending