Japan seeking new negotiations with Russia for Kuril Islands, report says

TOKYO, Sept. 23 (UPI) — Japan’s long-running dispute with Russia over the Kuril Islands may be resolved with a Tokyo plan to reclaim two of the islands, but Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary denied the report.

Japan is working on new negotiations with Russia to have two of the islands, the Shikotan and the Habomai islets, returned to Tokyo, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported Friday.

All four islets in the Kuril archipelago have been under Russian control since the end of World War II, but the two sides never signed a peace treaty due to the dispute.

Japan has claimed the Kuril Islands are its territory, citing the 1855 Treaty of Shimoda, when the two sides agreed on borders and both Shikotan and Habomai were considered a non-disputed part of Japan.

There have been talks about the islands at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Sept. 2-3, when Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss the dispute, according to Sputnik.

But Tokyo’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga discredited the report on Friday and said Japan continues to seek the return of all four islands in the archipelago, including the two southernmost islands Iturup and Kunashir.

The former Soviet Union had also stated in the Soviet–Japanese Joint Declaration of 1956, which restored diplomatic relations, that the Habomai and the Shikotan Islands would be handed over to Japan but only after the signing of a peace treaty.

The two sides never signed a permanent treaty after World War II.

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