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EDITORIAL | Putin's Lies About Northern Territories Make Peace Talks Far-Fetched

Russia invaded Japan from the north and occupied the Northern Territories. Any peace treaty with Moscow is difficult as long as Putin denies that fact.



Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the plenary session of the International Economic Forum in St Petersburg on June 7. (©Tass via Kyodo)

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has made outrageous statements designed to legitimize Russia's illegal occupation of the Northern Territories as well as his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. The four islands of the Northern Territories are unequivocally sovereign Japanese land. Putin's position on both territorial grabs is unacceptable. 

For example, Putin said recently: "These four islands are sovereign Russian territory and there is no reason not to visit them. Nevertheless, right now I am quite busy and do not have any plans to do so." 

He made this provocative statement during a press conference held in conjunction with an international conference in St Petersburg. Reporters from several foreign news agencies were in attendance. He was replying to a question about his proposed first visit to the Northern Territories. It was a follow-up to his comment in January that he would "definitely visit in the future." 

Mayor Masatoshi Ishigaki Masatoshi of Nemuro City and others met with Prime Minister Kishida to request resolution of the Northern Territories issue on May 14th (©Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

Russia's Illegal Occupation 

In the summer of 1945, immediately after the very end of World War II, the dictator Joseph Stalin unilaterally broke the neutrality pact between Japan and the Soviet Union. He invaded Japan from the north and occupied the Northern Territories. 

There has been no peace treaty between the two countries since the war's end. Putin also commented on the potential for negotiating a treaty. He said: "We have not set any conditions on continuing the dialogue. [And] we are not refusing to resume negotiations. But the Japanese side must change its policies if it wants us to resume such talks."

That was nonsense. Russia unilaterally suspended the peace treaty negotiations in March 2022 in retaliation for Japan's imposition of sanctions against Russia after it launched its invasion of Ukraine. It was Putin himself who altered the "conditions for continuing the dialogue" when he set out to destroy the international order.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi correctly countered Putin's statements. Hayashi pointed out  that Russia's attempts to transfer responsibility to the Japanese side are extremely unreasonable and "totally unacceptable." 

President Putin meets with representatives of international news agencies in St Petersburg, Russia, on June 5. (©Tass via Kyodo)

Russia's Duplicity and Threats 

Japan's signing of a peace treaty with Moscow is premised on resolving the Northern Territories issue. However, Putin has continuously sought to deceive Japan by peddling the outright lie that the Northern Territories, which he calls the Southern Kurile Islands, are Russian territory under international law. Furthermore, Putin has made it clear that Russia has absolutely no intention to return Japan's land. 

Four years ago Putin even pushed through a constitutional amendment that bans any territorial concessions by Russia. He can hardly be considered a credible partner for territorial negotiations. 

Putin also commented on the permission the United States and other Western countries recently granted Ukraine for using Western weapons to conduct limited attacks on Russian territory. He noted that Western countries seem convinced that Russia will never use nuclear weapons. He followed that with a threat, however. If Russian sovereignty or its territorial integrity were endangered, Putin said, Russia might use any means at its disposal. 

Japan must prepare for future contingencies involving Russia. We must also cooperate with Ukraine, which is being subjected to the same kind of brutal invasion that led to Russia's illegal occupation of the Northern Territories. In addition, we must persist in conveying the legitimacy of our demand for the return of the four islands making up the Northern Territories.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun