Japan PM promises Putin no U.S. bases on disputed isles

The Man

Former Staff
Jul 2011
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#1
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, eager to resolve a row that has haunted ties with Moscow since World War Two, has told Russian President Vladimir Putin the United States would not put troops on disputed islands if they are handed over to Japan, a newspaper reported on Friday.

Seeking to cement his diplomatic legacy and improve ties with Russia to counter a rising China, Abe has pledged to settle the dispute over four isles in the Western Pacific that were occupied by Soviet troops toward the end of the war.

They are known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuriles in Russia.

Any agreement involving transfer of sovereignty to Japan would have to address whether the U.S.-Japan security treaty, the core of Japan’s diplomacy, would apply, including whether Washington would have the right to put military bases on the islands.

The isles have strategic value for Russia, ensuring naval access to the western Pacific.

The two leaders agreed in talks in Singapore on Wednesday to speed up talks based on a 1956 joint declaration in which the Soviet Union agreed it would hand over two smaller islands after a peace treaty formally ending the war had been concluded.

The Asahi newspaper said Abe told Putin the United States would not put military bases on the two smaller islands thereafter, the Asahi newspaper said, adding Abe’s top security adviser had previously said bases were possible.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined to comment on the report.

Japan has long insisted its sovereignty over all four islands be confirmed before a peace treaty is signed.

In recent years, however, there have been signs Tokyo was rethinking its stance, perhaps with “two-plus-alpha” formula that would focus on the handover of the two smaller isles and some sort of visa-free access to the larger islands plus joint economic projects.

A breakthrough has been elusive. But Abe, who is expected to meet Putin again at a Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires from Nov. 30 and in Russia early next year, has said he’s determined to settle the dispute before leaving office in 2021.

Putin may be less keen. Russian news agency Tass quoted him as saying after meeting Abe in Singapore that talks based on the 1956 statement “certainly demands separate, additional and in depth analysis, given that not everything is clear in that Declaration”.
Japan PM tells Putin no U.S. bases on disputed isles if handed over: Asahi | Reuters

Of course Putin isn't "keen"... He knows that handing over of ANY land to outsiders would be very unpopular with his public at home. Any land, period. Even a couple tiny, uninhabited islands, to Japan, in turn for massive investments that would economically revitalize Russia's long impoverished, backward Far East...

Russians are foolishly nationalistic that way...
 

The Man

Former Staff
Jul 2011
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#2
An even more complicated problem for Putin hides in domestic politics. The majority of Russians (78 percent) spoke out in 2016 against the transfer of the Southern Kuril islands to Japan. Seventy-one percent of Russians are opposed to the compromise, by which Russia would transfer only Habomai and Shikotan to Japan (only 13 percent of respondents were in favor).

The transfer of even the two smaller islands would inevitably cause a flurry of criticism in Russia toward Putin. The concession of the islands to Japan, even in accordance with the international legal obligations of Russia, would definitely be perceived among many Russians as a form of “surrender.” Fifty-five percent of respondents agreed that their level of confidence in Putin would decrease if the disputed islands were transferred to Japan. The share of opponents of such a decision would definitely be higher among the conservative part of Russian society, on which Putin relies as his support base.

It is also noteworthy that the majority of Russians do not distinguish between the islands designated by the 1956 declaration and the two larger islands claimed by Japan, and in this sense both are radical steps toward the Japanese demands in the eyes of the Russian public. Even a cautious move by the Russian president toward compromise would be perceived by Russian citizens equally negatively.

The Russians do not see any need for concessions to Japan — and not only because it lost in World War II and therefore should pay for its past sins. There also exist more pragmatic considerations related to the assessment of the potential benefits for Russia from such a transaction.

On the one hand, Japan, in the view of the majority of Russians, is not only a low-priority partner for Russia, but also a strategic ally (and in the eyes of many a satellite state) of the United States — Russia’s main geopolitical adversary.

This explains the particularly pained attitude of Moscow toward the possible deployment of American military facilities on islands hypothetically transferred to Japan. It is not by chance that the impossibility of Japan’s providing guarantees against such a deployment is often cited as an argument in favor of Russian obstinacy at the talks. (However, the opposite is also true: Tokyo would be reluctant to get back the islands if they came with the “burden” of not allowing the military presence of its main ally there. In Tokyo’s eyes, this would look like a humiliating condition limiting its sovereignty over the retrieved territories).

On the other hand, neither do Russians believe in the golden rain of Japanese investment. For more than a quarter of a century, in spite of all Russia’s investment attraction efforts, Japanese businesses, with rare exceptions, did not come to Russia. It is already evident that in the coming years Japan will not be able to compete with China in the Russian market.

As for references to the 1956 declaration in the context of Russia’s legal obligations, many Russians do not consider international law a “sacred cow,” pointing to the actions of the U.S., whose leaders often act on the basis of their own ideas about political expediency. Besides, transfer of the islands to Japan, from the point of view of the silent majority of Russians, is solely a matter of the “goodwill” of Russia.

Finally, in the event of a final solution of the border problem, Russia would lose its leverage over Japan, as the latter would no longer fear disrupting territorial negotiations. It is precisely this fear that many observers insist is the reason for the softness of the Japanese sanctions against Russia and for the “pro-Russian” policy of Japan compared to other Group of Seven countries.
Putin faces hurdles of his own in territorial spat | The Japan Times
 

The Man

Former Staff
Jul 2011
43,518
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Toronto
#4
Give the islands back to the indigenous inhabitants to create an Ainu homeland. That's my prescription.

Cheers.
With a common economic zone and shared fishing and shipping passage rights for both Russia and Japan.

Sounds like a reasonable solution :)
 
Likes: Havelock

The Man

Former Staff
Jul 2011
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#5
TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is working to put a lid on references to disputed northern islands as a set of four, apparently targeting the more likely prospect of winning back just two from Russia as a start.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been receptive to this message of compromise, creating a harmony that is helping to propel bilateral negotiations on the issue.

At their Nov. 14 summit in Singapore, Abe and Putin agreed to accelerate negotiations toward a treaty formally ending World War II hostilities based on a 1956 joint declaration by Japan and the old Soviet Union. The declaration stipulates that after the conclusion of a peace treaty, two of the disputed territories will be transferred to Japan: the Habomai islets, often counted as a single island for convenience, and the island of Shikotan.
Much more: Abe drops mentions of 'four' islands in Russia dispute
 

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