Japan and Russia must develop a peace agreement solution, which both nations would accept, going forward one step at a time, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday during the annual “Rally for Return of the Northern Territories” [a Japanese term for the South Kuril Islands.]
“We will advance the negotiations one step at a time to find a solution that both sides would accept,” Abe said.
To that end, the two nations must reach understanding and build relations of mutual trust and friendship, the prime minister said. He underscored the importance of further development of joint Russian-Japanese economic activity in Southern Kuril Islands.
The annual rally was also attended by the foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who vowed to advance the negotiations on the territorial dispute and sign a peace treaty between Japan and Russia.
For the third year in a row, the rally goes without such wording as “islands, unlawfully occupied by Russia.” Back in the day, Prime Minister Abe and his government renounced such language in so as not to harm the negotiations process. Despite that, the rally scene, where the Prime Minister and other delegates spoke, was decorated with a huge poster reading “Return the Northern Territories.”
In accordance with the governmental decree, the “National rallies for Return of the Northern Territories” are held annually on February 7, in remembrance of the first Russian-Japanese treaty, signed in 1855. These rallies are traditionally attended by the ministers, majority and opposition lawmakers, and former Southern Kuril residents.
Moscow and Tokyo have been stuck in negotiations on peace treaty for decades, with the Southern Kuril Islands sovereignty remaining the main obstacle. Following the World War II, the entire archipelago has been included into the Soviet Union territory. However, Japan claims sovereignty over islands Iturup, Shikotan, Kunashir and Habomai minor island group. Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly claimed that Russian sovereignty over the islands is cemented in the international law and cannot be challenged.