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Oct 6, 2021
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All or Nothing: Japan Will Not Be Satisfied with Two Kuril Islands and Demands All Four

Photo: Chairman of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida was elected the country's new prime minister following a vote in both chambers of parliament.

Photo: Chairman of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida was elected the country’s new prime minister following a vote in both chambers of parliament. (Photo: Zuma / TASS)

Elected Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida, who served as foreign minister in the former cabinet Shinzo Abe, raises a lot of questions, one of the main among which is what course the new leader will take on the issue of the territorial dispute with Russia over the Southern Kuriles.

As the Japanese media remind, during the debate at the election of the party chairman, evaluating Abe’s diplomacy in Russia, Kishida expressed his intention to strive for “returning to Japan of all four northern islands” and thus actually moved away from the Abe line to the initial return of 2 islands – the Lesser Kuril Ridge (in Japan calls it Habomai) and Shikotana after the signing of the peace treaty. The return of Kunashir and Iturup was supposed to follow in the course of negotiations …

It is noted that during his tenure as foreign minister in the government, Abe Kishida repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the “diplomacy of reconciliation”, which was then promoted by the office of the then prime minister. In this regard, the Russian side criticized him that he, they say, “adheres to a one-sided orientation towards the United States.”

“We will demonstrate our active presence in the international arena and protect our national interests.” So Kishida spoke at a press conference on the occasion of his inauguration as the new chairman of the LDP, held on September 29. He also spoke about foreign and security policy and expressed his readiness to deepen in cooperation with the United States the concept of a “free and open Indo-Pacific region”, but did not mention Japan’s relationship with Russia.

Kishida also positively assessed Abe’s past line in relations with Russia, stating: “There was then an active and persistent movement to continue the discussion of bilateral relations, based on the relationship of personal trust that developed at that time between the top leaders of our countries.” However, in doing so, he avoided a specific positive mention of the so-called. The “Singapore accord” between Abe and Putin that on the basis of the Joint Soviet-Japanese Declaration of 1956, Russia, after the conclusion of peace, will transfer only two islands to Japan. In addition, he did not answer in any way the question of the Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper, contained in a written interview with him, about whether the aforementioned Joint Declaration should remain the basis for territorial negotiations with Japan and Russia today.

In the photo: Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada (left to right) before the start of talks between the Russian and Japanese foreign ministers and defense ministers in the "two plus two" format ", 2017.
In the photo: Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada (left to right) before the start of talks between the Russian and Japanese foreign ministers and defense ministers in the “two plus two” format “, 2017. (Photo: Alexander Shcherbak / TASS)

Does this mean that the new Japanese leader not only does not intend to abandon the previous course of demanding a solution to the territorial dispute on Japanese terms, but is also ready to toughen the requirements?

– I think Kishida will remain adherent of the confrontational course, – says Head of the Expert Council of the Strategic Development Fund Igor Shatrov… – And that’s why. The Japanese leader is well aware that such a policy will not bear any fruit, except for the deterioration of relations. But the time for hope is over. All masks have been dropped. The Russian Constitution contains a direct ban on the seizure of territories in favor of foreign states. And the illusions that someday it will be possible to agree on the transfer of at least two islands of the South Kuril ridge to Japan by Russia have been dispelled.

Why then does Kishida speak of the impossible as real? I believe that in this way it expands the room for maneuver for the future. A maneuver is possible, for example, on the issue of joint economic activities on the islands. Recently, Russia has begun to invite foreign investors to the Kuril Islands on favorable terms. Not only Japanese, but any foreigners. There is little doubt that such proposals will interest the same Chinese. And China is like a bone in the throat of Japan. Despite the fact that Japan is now abandoning joint activities on the islands, over time it will come to understand its benefits. And then the inflated claims of the new prime minister can be exchanged for real projects. But only without the Chinese. I am sure that this will be a prerequisite. It is not a fact that Russia will accept such a condition. But such a proposal will sooner or later come from Tokyo.

“SP”: – Why not demand the Northern Kuriles? The Japanese communists have been demanding for a long time, but the official authorities have not yet stuttered about this. Why?

– In the case of the Northern Kuriles or South Sakhalin, the Japanese authorities have nothing to refer to. There are no international documents challenging Russia’s right to these territories. But be that as it may, the 1956 Soviet-Japanese Declaration on the South Kurils exists. Another thing is that its provisions are incorrectly interpreted by the Japanese side and, in principle, no longer work.

“SP”: – Experts and politicians believe that Kishida was very worried that, having taken a position of excessive reconciliation with Russia, he would not meet a negative reaction from the United States as a candidate for the post of future prime minister. What does the USA have to do with it? What role do they play in this dispute and what do they want to achieve? How ready is Kishida to be guided by them?

– The United States plays the main, fundamental role in this dispute. There would be no confrontational position of the United States, there would be no Russian-Japanese contradictions. Initially, the actions of the United States, which did not invite China to San Francisco in 1951 as a party to the signing of a peace treaty with Japan, created the basis for future discord in relations between the Soviet Union and Japan. As a result, the USSR did not sign the San Francisco Peace Treaty, considering it a separate one, but was guided by the previously concluded Yalta Agreements, which recognized the USSR’s right to return the territories previously occupied by Japan. That’s all. But further advances in the Soviet-Japanese dialogue in the era Khrushchev, when in 1956 a plan to transfer Shikotan and the Habomai Ridge to the Japanese was discussed, they were destroyed by the implacable position of the Americans. Threatening to forever occupy Okinawa and the entire Ryukyu archipelago, the United States got Japan out of the dialogue. In Soviet times, Japan was called the unsinkable US aircraft carrier. To maintain this position for a long time, preferably forever, the Americans have always driven a wedge into relations between Moscow and Tokyo. So Kishida was worried for a reason. And while he conscientiously fulfills his “number”, acting exclusively in the interests of the American masters.

“SP”: – If we hypothetically imagine that they would agree on certain conditions on two islands, would the question be closed on this?

– Perhaps. But only if Japan later found the strength to pursue an independent foreign policy. She was not noticed in this in any post-war year.

“SP”: – At the same time, many Japanese believe that Kishida will fail. Allegedly due to the fact that energy prices have changed, and Moscow now has a trump card. What does energy prices have to do with it? The Kuril Islands will not be returned at any price! What else are they counting on?

– The topic of the South Kuriles, or “northern territories” has long become a domestic political bargaining chip in Japan. In order to get votes from a group of nationalist-minded electorate, politicians use it in their election campaign, and then, as they can, as it turns out, they work out this issue. They come back to him from time to time and remind this part of their voters that they remain adherents of the policy of returning the “northern territories”.

“SP”: – In your opinion, with Kishida, the dialogue will not move anywhere from a dead center? As you can understand, there is no longer any talk about joint activities?

– I think that the 100th Prime Minister of Japan in this part of the obligations to the electorate will suffer the same fate as the 99th and 98th, and all their predecessors.

According to member of the political council of the Other Russia party E.V. Limonov “* Andrey Milyuk, politicians from all over the world tell their voters exactly what they want to hear:

– If it sounded even a little believable, Kishida would also have demanded to give Sakhalin entirely to the Japanese. Moreover, the behavior of the Russian Foreign Ministry encourages this. Our state, cruel and vindictive from the inside, dreams of being friends with the whole world, often to the detriment of its national interests. They will close their eyes to any trick of the Japanese.

It would be incorrect to present the situation in such a way that Kishida departed from Abe’s policy. Both, pragmatic and judicious, acted on the basis of existing circumstances. The rejection of “diplomacy of reconciliation” is caused primarily by a change in these external circumstances.

Both sides are well aware that Japan will not receive all four islands, since it did not achieve them even in the most insignificant times of Russian statehood. Therefore, the Japanese bargained while the Kremlin was ready to bargain and almost plainly offered to divide the South Kuriles in exchange for a peace treaty. The exchange of land for promises in an era when everyone breaks their promises is a profitable exchange for the Japanese.

Then the Kremlin had to retreat from its positions – so great was the popular indignation. And even go to a demonstration of strength against Japanese interests in order to restore the confidence of the people. Tokyo drew conclusions and stopped bargaining, and at the same time returned to hostile rhetoric so as not to anger its citizens. It seems that in Japan, which is looking into the mouth of the West, real politics does not depend much on personalities – everything is run by the deep state, at least it determines the main direction of movement.

The Japanese man in the street interprets these processes as signs of Russia’s strengthening, its unbridled aggression. In his superficial conspiracy theories, he brings together Russian gas, Europe and Putin, which freezes without this gas, and is not at all embarrassed by the fact that the characters in this play are on the other side of the continent. And damn it, this Japan, not before her, but such is the man in the street in every country: the globe of the world revolves around the capital of his Motherland.

Despite all of Tokyo’s belligerent rhetoric, the Japanese will continue to negotiate with the Kremlin. Moreover, the Kremlin itself offers a way out: joint management. That is, the creeping occupation of the islands in exchange for investments, joint ventures, profits stretched out over the years. Not the worst offer for the Japanese.

If you cannot take all the islands, they will take half first. If it is impossible immediately, they will take it gradually. Unfortunately, this is a very consistent policy of our opponents.


* not registered by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation

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