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Reactions From Tsushima To Sakhalin

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently shared the dais with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Vladivostok, as the two leaders attended an economic forum. During the event, the president told his guest from Tokyo: “Let’s sign the peace deal this year, without any pre-conditions.
Putin made the proposal, as he was eager to end the bilateral dispute over a chain of Pacific islands. The Russian strongman believes that the proposed deal will allow the two countries to formally end their WWII hostilities. “An idea has just come into my head,” Putin further told PM Abe on September 12. However, the Japanese premier did not give his response, making it clear that he was not interested in any such deal with the Russians.

Since the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), Moscow and Tokyo have been at loggerheads over far-flung Pacific islands on the edge of the Sea of Okhostk. Currently, 20,000 people live along 13km paved roads on the Kuril Islands and they are connected to Sakhalin, a larger Russian island, by one ferry per week. Putin made the proposal, as the Kremlin is well aware of the fact that Japan may reclaim these islands (which Tokyo calls the Northern Territories) at any time. However, Russia – which had taken possession of the Islands under Stalin in the mid-1940s – is not ready to give them back to Japan.
Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo on September 13, Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan Yoshihide Suga confirmed that Prime Minister Abe rejected President Putin’s offer, saying: “There is absolutely no change to our country’s perspective of resolving the problem of rights over the Northern Territories before sealing a peace treaty.” The secretary also said that PM Abe met President Putin 22 times in the last six years and discussed the issue a couple of times.


PM Abe & President Putin

Experts are of the opinion that the Russian president made the proposal once again in Vladivostok, as he might have decided to capitalise on PM Abe’s growing desire for an agreement between the two countries in order to counter China’s economic prosperity. Perhaps, President Putin failed to understand that the Japanese people still have painful memories over the resource-rich islands. So, Tokyo will never handover those islands to Moscow officially.

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