U.S. Base Presence May Affect Japan-Russia Island Talks

Politics

Tokyo, Nov. 29 (Jiji Press)--Negotiations between Japan and Russia over their decades-old territorial dispute are expected to be affected by a possible U.S. military presence on any of disputed islands if they are returned to Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin recently agreed to use the 1956 Japan-Soviet joint declaration as the basis of bilateral negotiations on concluding a World War II peace treaty. The declaration calls for the handover to Japan of Shikotan and the Habomai group of islets, the smaller two of four Russian-held northwestern Pacific islands, after the conclusion of a peace treaty.

But a Russian presidential spokesman was quick to note that the latest agreement does not mean the automatic transfer of the two islands to Japan, signaling diplomatic maneuvering by Putin.

According to Japanese government sources, Russia prioritizes a commitment from Japan not to allow any U.S. military base to be constructed on either of the two islands after the handover.

The four islands, located off Hokkaido, northernmost Japan, were seized from Japan by Soviet troops in the closing days of the war. The dispute over them has prevented Japan and Russia from concluding a peace treaty to put a formal end to their wartime hostilities.

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Jiji Press