Japan-Russian territorial question and peace treaty negotiations
What did Mori-Putin talks and 'Irkutsk statement' show
The Japanese Communist Party has published its view and proposals on the Japan-Russia territorial question and peace treaty negotiations. The view was announced by JCP Policy Commission Chair Fudesaka Hideyo and JCP International Bureau Director Nishiguchi Hikaru at a press conference on April 13. The full text of "On Japan-Russia Territorial Question and Peace Treaty Negotiations" is as follows:
Japanese Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro and Russian President Vladimir Putin ended their summit meeting by publishing an "Irkutsk Statement" on March 25. The talks made no tangible progress on the territorial question between the two countries, and even added to the difficulty. Reporting on the summit talks, Japanese newspapers said that, "Japan and Russia are still far apart in their peace treaty talks," and "With no progress made in the talks, hopes of a settlement of the territorial question are beginning to fade and Japan is in a fix."
What is the way out of this impasse? The Japanese Communist Party here presents its views on where the Japan-Russia territorial question stemmed from, what the problem with Liberal Democratic Party politics is, and how the JCP views the question.
1. Origin of Japan-Russia territorial question and the way for its settlement
(1) Habomai and Shikotan islands and the whole of the Chishima (Kurile) Islands are historically part of Japan
The territorial question between Japan and Russia is referred to by the government and the mass media as the "northern territories" question. The so-called "northern territories" comprise four islands: Habomai, Shikotan, Kunashiri, and Etorofu.
But Japan's historical territory is not limited to these four islands, and Habomai and Shikotan islands are historically part of Hokkaido. Kunashiri and Etorofu islands are the southern half of the Chishima Islands. In fact, the whole of the Chishima Islands, including the Northern Chishima from Uruppu in the south to Shumushu in the north are historically part of Japan.
The territorial possessions were determined in the latter half of the 19th century, between the Tokugawa shogunate era and the early Meiji era.
Until then, no demarcation had been made to determine the territorial possessions of the Chishima Islands and Sakhalin (Karafuto) Island. With Japan advancing from the south and Russia from the north into the Chishima Islands, their conflict of interests often led to clashes. Later, two treaties were concluded to make the Chishima Islands Japanese territory and Sakhalin Russian territory.
The first is the 1855 Japan-Russia Trade and Friendship Treaty, which was concluded between Japan's Tokugawa shogunate and the czarist Russian government. Under the treaty, signed at Shimoda on Izu Peninsula, Southern Chishima (comprising Etorofu and Kunashiri islands) was made Japanese territory and Northern Chishima (from Uruppu Island to Shumushu Island) was made Russian territory. A border between Japan and Russia was fixed on the strait between Etorofu Island and Uruppu Island. As for Sakhalin, it was agreed to not establish a border between the two countries and to maintain it just as before, as a land of mixed habitation where Japanese and Russian peoples can freely move.
The other is the 1875 Sakhalin-Chishima Exchange Treaty which was concluded in the Russian capital of St. Petersburg. This treaty made the whole of Sakhalin Island Russian territory and the whole of Chishima Islands Japanese territory. As a result of this treaty, the entire Chishima Islands ultimately became Japanese territory. This is fundamentally different from the case of the southern half of Sakhalin which Japan took from Russia as a result of the Russo-Japanese War.
All this shows that the Chishima Islands are not territory which Japan took from another country by force or as a result of war; they ultimately became Japanese territory through peaceful diplomatic negotiations. As far as Japan's historical territory is concerned, a clear logic of Japan-Russia diplomatic history shows that what the 1875 Sakhalin-Chishima Exchange Treaty established should be the historical border between Japan and Russia.
(2) Capture of Japan's historical territory was Stalin's great-power chauvinist error
How were the Chishima Islands and Habomai and Shikotan islands, which are part of Hokkaido, made territory of the former Soviet Union, the present Russia? That happened when Stalin, the Soviet leader at the time, toward the end of WWII insisted on Soviet annexation of the Chishima Islands, Japan's historical territory, as a condition for the Soviet Union's participation in the war against Japan. Stalin then annexed the Chishima Islands without waiting for a peace treaty to be concluded.
Regarding the post-WWII disposition, the Allied Powers had confirmed the principle of "territorial non-expansion" as a major principle in the 1941 "Atlantic Charter" (Declaration of Principles signed by Britain and the U.S.), which the Soviet Union supported, and in the 1943 Cairo Declaration by Britain and the U.S., later joined by the Soviet Union. The Atlantic Charter clearly stated that "their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other." The Cairo Declaration stressed that: "They covet no gain for themselves and have no thought of territorial expansion."
However, in the secret talks between the leaders of the U.S., Britain, and the Soviet Union in Yalta on the Crimea in February 1945 toward the end of WWII, Stalin demanded that Japan's legitimate territory of the Chishima Islands be "handed over" to the Soviet Union as a condition for Soviet participation in the war against Japan. Under the secret Yalta agreement, the U.S. and Britain accepted this demand. In the talks Stalin strongly insisted that it is essential to allow the Soviet Union to acquire certain rights which it needs to have in the Far East, if the Soviet Union is to take part in the war against Japan ("Roosevelt and the Russians: the Yalta Conference," by then U.S. Secretary of State Edward. R. Stettinius). Stalin's demand defied internationally accepted norms; it amounted to a flagrant violation of the principle of "territorial non-aggrandizement" which was agreed on by the Allied Powers, including the Soviet Union, as a principle of postwar disposition.
What's more, the Soviet Union militarily occupied not only the Chishima Islands but also Habomai and Shikotan islands, which are part of Hokkaido and were not even referred to in the Yalta Agreement. In 1946, the year after the war's end, while the conclusion of a peace treaty was not an agenda item yet, the Soviet Union unilaterally incorporated the Chishima Islands and Habomai and Shikotan Islands into Soviet territory.
In 1951, the San Francisco Peace Treaty was concluded under which Japan was forced to "renounce all right, title and claim" in connection with the territorial right over the Chishima Islands in its Article 2, Clause C. This clause was improperly brought in by the U.S., the author of the treaty, from the 1945 Yalta Agreement. But Japan is no party to the Yalta Agreement, and the Japanese people saw no reason why they had to be bound by the secret arrangement.
In Japan-Russia territorial talks, it is important to ascertain how Stalin's flagrant violation of the principle of territorial non-aggrandizement and his territorial expansion based on great-power chauvinism became the origin of the present territorial dispute between the two countries.
Of course the government of the Russian Federation, the successor to the Soviet Union's international position, has the responsibility to correct the serious error committed by Stalin.
(3) Great cause of Japanese people in demanding that Russia return Japan's territory is in correcting Stalin's great-power chauvinist error
The Japanese people's demand that Russia return Japan's territory is legitimate in that it calls for the correction of Stalin's great-power chauvinist error and for Japan's historical territory to be restored. This is the great cause of the Japanese people's call for the settlement of the territorial question.
It is important for Japan in territorial negotiations to make it clear that Japan demands that its historical territory be recovered, without being bound by either the Yalta Agreement between the U.S., Britain, and the Soviet Union or the Chishima renunciation clause in the San Francisco Peace Treaty. Without this, Japan's territorial claim would not be deemed legitimate in Japan-Russia negotiations or before international opinion.
The successive Liberal Democratic Party governments, however, have regarded the Chishima renunciation clause in the San Francisco Peace Treaty as absolute, and their negotiations with the Soviet Union and Russia were premised on this clause as things not to be touched on. LDP negotiations with Russia (formerly the Soviet Union) have completely abandoned the fundamental task of correcting Stalin's great-power chauvinist error.
As the result of such diplomacy, Japan in territorial talks has lost the great cause which otherwise can be acknowledged internationally.
(4) LDP diplomacy without great cause of Japan's territorial claim
Japan has accepted the San Francisco Peace Treaty's clause providing that Japan renounces "all right, title and claim" to the Chishima Islands but claims a return of the four islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Habomai, and Shikotan on the grounds that they are not included as part of the Chishima Islands. The only international legal basis the LDP government used to justify Japan's territorial claim has been the position that the Southern Chishima Islands are not part of the Chishima Islands.
It was an unreasonable argument.
Historically, Habomai and Shikotan islands are part of Hokkaido and are not included in the Chishima Islands. But Etorofu and Kunashiri form part of the Chishimas. This is why these islands are called the Southern Chishima Islands, which is internationally common sense. For that reason, different from the case of Habomai and Shikotan islands, Japan's territorial claim for Etorofu and Kunashiri on the pretext of "they are not the Chishimas" is unacceptable.
Kunashiri and Etorofu are the Southern Chishimas, and therefore part of the Chishima Islands. This was how the San Francisco peace conference interpreted the question when it decided upon Japan's renunciation of the Chishima Islands. The U.S. delegate also spoke in favor of this interpretation. The then Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshida Shigeru, who represented Japan at the peace conference, argued that Habomai and Shikotan islands would not be included in the abandoned Chishima Islands but he raised no objection to the inclusion of Etorofu and Kunashiri islands. At that time, Yoshida used the phrase, "two islands in the southern half of the Chishima Islands, namely Etorofu and Kunashiri islands." In 1951, the Japanese parliament ratified the San Francisco Peace Treaty. During the parliamentary debate, the government consistently stated that "the Chishima Islands comprise the Northern and Southern Chishimas" (Ministry of Foreign Affairs Treaty Bureau Director Nishimura Kumao).
Five years later, in 1956, the Japanese government abruptly changed its view and began to claim that "the Southern Chishimas are not part of the Chishima Islands." The claim proved to be sophistry as an afterthought, which was internationally unacceptable. Asked by Japan about their views on the Chishima Islands, the British and French governments in the San Francisco peace conference flatly rejected Japan's interpretation.
Thus, the LDP government threw away the great cause of correcting Stalin's great-power chauvinism, and chose to bare itself on the self-interested interpretation of the treaty to reclaim Japan's territory. This made Japan's position very vulnerable in territorial negotiations with the Soviet Union, later Russia.
It is 45 years since the government began to insist that "the Southern Chishimas are not part of the Chishima Islands," followed by meaningless negotiations taking place on and off. But the government never explained to the people and the Diet what really was negotiated, regarding the basis for its territorial claims, the reason for the Soviet Union's (Russia's) rejection of Japan's claim, or Japan's counterarguments. The absence of government explanations shows the Japanese government's ineptitude for dealing with the territorial question.
What undermines the present state of the Japan-Russia territorial talks is the fundamental diplomatic problem which the Japanese government created in abandoning the internationally acceptable position to correct Stalin's expansionism, and picked the way to adhere to the framework of "renunciation of the Chishimas" clause of the San Francisco Peace Treaty.
2. "Irkutsk Statement," a statement of Japan's one-sided concession on territorial question
The weakness of the LDP government's stance in the territorial talks has found its expression in the "Irkutsk Statement" announced following the March 25 Japan-Russia summit talks. The statement contained three major issues which would affect the basis of the territorial question, and all of them represent one-sided concessions to Japan.
(1) Japan abandoned northern Chishima Islands
First, the Irkutsk Statement confirmed that future territorial negotiations will be confined to the discussion of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and Habomai islands, thus confirming that Japan has abandoned the right to the Northern Chishima Islands, which include Uruppu Island.
The statement said that a "peace treaty should be concluded through the solution of issues concerning the attribution of the islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and Habomai." The argument that the return of the four islands will be discussed in Japan-Russia territorial talks was also stated in the 1993 Tokyo Declaration signed by Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihiro and Russian President Boris Yeltsin and reconfirmed in the 1997 Krasnoyarsk Agreement signed between Prime Minister Hashimoto Ryutaro and Russian President Yeltsin.
Commenting on the Tokyo Declaration, JCP Chair Fuwa Tetsuzo in Akahata on October 14, 1993 stated, "This puts the Northern Chishima Islands out of the framework of territorial negotiations from the beginning. Furthermore, it makes the demand for the return of Etorofu and Kunashiri islands, which form the Southern Chishima Islands, lose ground in international law."
This means that negotiating the return of the four islands not only means renouncing the Northern Chishima Islands; it is part and parcel of the assumption that the Southern Chishima Islands are not part of the Chishima Islands, an argument which cannot be accepted internationally.
The most important rationale behind Japan's request that Russia return the islands is that the whole of the Chishima Islands historically are Japan's territory, and that they were handed over to Russia as part of the unfair post-WWII disposition. If Japan excludes the northern Chishima Islands from the islands to be negotiated, it will lose ground on which to call for the return of Kunashiri and Etorofu islands, both of which are part of the Southern Chishima Islands.
(2) Stumbling block to an early return of Habomai and Shikotan
Secondly, the statement has put a stumbling block to an early return of Habomai and Shikotan islands.
These islands are part of Hokkaido, and cannot be part of the Chishima Islands which Japan renounced under the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty. Japan's government confirmed this in the Diet discussion of the ratification of the Peace Treaty. The then Treaty Bureau Director Nishimura Kumao stated that an absolute majority of the Allied Powers admitted that Shikotan and Habomai islands were part of Hokkaido and Parliamentary Vice Minister Kusaba said that Chishima Islands did not include Habomai and Shikotan.
This is why Japan has the right to demand that Russia return Habomai and Shikotan islands immediately without waiting for a peace treaty to be signed. This is what the JCP proposed in the 1979 negotiations on the territorial question with the ruling Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). We insisted that an interim treaty be concluded between Japan and the Soviet Union before the conclusion of a peace treaty to ensure that Habomai and Shikotan islands be returned first.
In this regard, it is serious that the Irkutsk Statement confirmed that the 1956 Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration is a basic legal document that established the starting point in the negotiation process for the conclusion of a peace treaty. If the Declaration, which stated that Habomai and Shikotan islands should be returned to Japan after a peace treaty is concluded is the basis of the negotiations, it means that Japan has put a stumbling block to the settlement of the question of the return to Japan of the two islands before the conclusion of a peace treaty. It also means that Russia can have firm grounds to push through its plan to end the territorial negotiations by returning these two islands to Japan.
Although the government is touting the joint document, which for the first time confirmed the validity of the 1956 Declaration, as a major achievement of the summit talks, the talks actually marked a big step backward by preventing the possibility of the two islands being returned before the conclusion of a peace treaty.
(3) Japan has abandoned administrative rights over Kunashiri and Etorofu, another concession
Concerning Kunashiri and Etorofu islands, the Japanese government also failed to leave any possibility for future negotiations, thus making a one-sided concession.
In the 1998 Japan-Russia summit talks, Hashimoto Ryutaro, then prime minister, made a conciliatory proposal called the "Kawana Plan" to conclude a peace treaty only by reaching agreement on a border likely to be established between Etorofu and Uruppu islands, and leave the administrative rights over Kunashiri and Etorofu islands to Russia.
Japan insists that the question of administrative rights can be settled later, but once a peace treaty is concluded, all postwar border and territorial questions will be regarded as completely resolved. There is no guarantee that administrative rights over the two islands will be returned to Japan. The Kawana Plan is tantamount to Japan's renunciation of the two islands, and still remains on the record of the summit talks.
To make matters worse, Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro in the summit talks with the Russian president in November 2000 in Brunei stated that he still considered the Kawana Plan as the best solution. He thus made public the plan which had been kept secret, and even reconfirmed it. As a result, Japan publicly stated its readiness to renounce administrative rights over Kunashiri and Etorofu islands while Russia made no concession, and only this statement by Japan has been kept on the negotiation record. Prime Minister Mori is responsible for such a grave situation.
Russia in the Irkutsk talks took advantage of what Japan has done. The Japanese government has explained that in Irkutsk, the 1956 Japan-U.S. Joint Declaration was endorsed for the first time in an official joint document and that the return of Habomai and Shikotan islands was legally agreed upon. It has also said that the focus of future negotiations will be Kunashiri and Etorofu Islands.
But Russia gives a different explanation. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Aleksandr Losyukov (in charge of negotiations with Japan) said on April 4 that when Habomai and Shikotan Islands are returned to Japan in accordance with the 1956 Declaration, it would be meaningless to continue negotiations on Kunashiri and Etorofu Islands. In other words, he said that Russia won't have any negotiations with Japan on these two islands after it returns Habomai and Shikotan to Japan.
It is clear that Japan made one concession after another in the talks between Prime Minister Mori and President Putin.
Conclusion: unilateral concession and cheap tricks diplomacy will not help accomplish any progress
The whole process of Japan-Russia territorial talks leading to the Irkutsk Statement indicates that simply relying on one-sided concessions or cheap tricks won't help settle the territorial question.
The Japanese government, in an attempt to get out of the impasse reached in the negotiations with Russia, has not only agreed to abandon the Northern Chishima Islands, but made one unilateral concession after another concerning territorial rights to the four other islands in negotiations behind closed doors to keep the Japanese people uninformed. It is also reported that some Liberal Democratic Party members are suggesting that a peace treaty may be concluded with Russia if the question of Habomai and Shikotan islands is settled. This position accords with what Losyukov stated as quoted previously.
What is more, the LDP has tried to use economic assistance as a leverage to make a breakthrough as well as personal friendship between the two leaders to boost bilateral relations with Russia. These tricky attempts have not only failed to bring about any positive results, but also have made the situation more complex. That is the lesson the total process has shown.
At the press conference following the announcement of the Irkutsk Statement, Prime Minister Mori explained that the joint statement constituted a summary of all past negotiations. It surely is a summary of LDP diplomacy in the sense that it has proven the failure of LDP policy which lacks any international cause and principles, because LDP policy has not achieved any progress in the effort to get Japanese territory returned but has resulted in Japan's setback.
The lack of the great cause in the LDP policy has also been revealed by the parliamentary questioning made by JCP House of Representatives member Yamaguchi Tomio at the Lower House Plenary Session on March 27. Asked about the rationale and cause which the LDP negotiations were based on, the prime minister could not present anything in answer. He just stated that the guidelines for the territorial talks are the series of Japan-Russia agreements, including the 1993 "Tokyo Declaration" in which Japan abandoned the Northern Chishima Islands. Using agreements with Russia as the guideline for the negotiations with Russia? Such an argument would not be made by a person who knows what diplomacy is about.
Japan has abandoned its right to the Northern Chishima Islands. The possibility of the return of the two islands of Kunashiri and Etorofu has almost diminished. The goal for the return of Habomai and Shikotan islands is becoming far off. All this is what LDP diplomacy has "accomplished."
3. To open way toward solving the territorial question--JCP position and view on the way for settling the territorial question
The Japanese-Russian territorial question stemmed from the annexation by Stalin of the Chishima Islands and Habomai and Shikotan islands to the former Soviet Union towards the end of the Second World War in 1945, which was in violation of the principle of "territorial non-expansion." The basic way toward solving the question, therefore, is to correct the error of Stalin's great-power chauvinism and hegemonism. Future territorial negotiations must be based on the fundamental principle of international laws achieved in the 20th century, which is that no country has the right to annex the historical territories of other countries. From this position, the Japanese Communist Party reiterates the following proposals as Japan's fundamental position on the territorial negotiations.
(1) Do not make the Yalta Agreement's 'hand-over of the Chishima Islands' clause and the San Francisco Treaty's 'renunciation of the Chishima (Kurile) Islands' clause unnegotiable
In dealing with the territorial question with Russia, Japan's government maintains that the San Francisco Peace Treaty's clause on 'renouncing the Kurile Islands' is immovable. The Japanese government's sophistry that the "Southern Chishima Islands (which comprise Kunashiri and Etorofu islands) are not part of the Chishima Islands" arose from this sophistry which is incapable of convincing anymore. This position must be completely rectified.
It was in flagrant violation of the principle of territorial non-expansion regarding the postwar disposition that the Soviet Union at the Yalta Conference demanded the handing over of the Chishima Islands to the Soviet Union from Japan as a condition for Soviet participation in the war against Japan and that both the U.S. and Britain accepted it. The inclusion in the San Francisco Peace Treaty of the clause to force Japan to renounce "all right, title and claim" to the Chishima Islands at the request of the U.S. meant that an unjust secret deal was struck at Yalta.
A just solution to the territorial question must be accompanied by the correction of this injustice, which was in the postwar disposition, based on internationally accepted democratic principles. This is why Japanese-Russian territorial talks should not regard the Chishima Islands provisions of the Yalta Agreement and the San Francisco Peace Treaty as unnegotiable.
There have been some de facto changes made to clauses of the San Francisco Peace Treaty without any official statement on revocation. For example, the U.S. had maintained its administrative rights over Okinawa, but in the early 1970s, the administrative rights were returned to Japan although the question of U.S. military bases on the island remained unresolved. All know that the reversion of Okinawa to Japan was an achievement of the strong demand and movement of the Japanese people, especially by Okinawans.
Now is the time for Japan to appeal to the Russian public and the world that Habomai and Shikotan islands and the Chishima Islands are historically part of Japan, that the annexation of the Chishima Islands by Russia is unjustifiable in the light of international common sense, and that it was Stalin's great-power chauvinist error that caused the annexation.
(2) Negotiations must be based on the achievement of peaceful Japan-Russia negotiations in the latter half of the 19th century
In the latter half of the 19th century, Japan and Russia, in the course of establishing their modern states, settled the border question without the use of force. To bring the present Japan-Russia negotiations to a success, it is urgently requested to make this historic achievement as the starting point and the very basis for settling the border question.
As regards the determination of borders at that time, we have the 1855 Japan-Russia Trade and Friendship Treaty and the 1875 Sakhalin-Chishima Exchange Treaty. The Japanese Communist Party has insisted that negotiations for settling the territorial question be based on the 1875 Sakhalin-Chishima Exchange Treaty, because it is the agreement reached finally in the territorial talks between the two countries. This indicates that the two countries, as a result of the Sakhalin-Chishima Exchange Treaty which was concluded after peaceful talks, reached a final conclusion that the whole Chishima Islands belong to Japan. In negotiating a peace treaty with Russia, Japan has sufficient facts which can help Japan insist that the whole of the Chishima Islands must be returned to Japan.
(3) Negotiations on a stage-by-stage approach toward a return of territories may be necessary; a peace treaty should be concluded only after final settlement of the territorial question
Habomai and Shikotan islands are not included in the Chishima Islands which Japan renounced under the San Francisco Peace Treaty. Therefore, Japan should call for an early return of Habomai and Shikotan islands without waiting for a Japan-Russia peace treaty to be concluded. If necessary, concluding an intermediate treaty would be possible.
Since the Japanese-Russian negotiations are conducted between states, all of Japan's territorial claims may not be met at once. This will be all the more so if we take into account the last 56 years and the present stage of Japanese-Russian relations.
In that case, Japan should seek to achieve a step-by-step return of territories in negotiations. It should not unilaterally declare the abandonment of points where both sides could not reach agreement. It is absolutely unacceptable that the Japanese government propose one-sided concessions which we have pointed out.
Conclusion of a peace treaty must only come after the territorial question is finally settled and the border between the two countries determined.
It is very important for Japan in the negotiations to publicly promise Russia the following steps for the islands to be returned to Japan: demilitarization, environmental protection, and guaranteeing the rights of the residents of the islands to continue to live there permanently even after the islands are returned to Japan, if they want to do so.
Only when these principles are established, can Japan sincerely deal with the territorial question in negotiations with Russia and effectively appeal to the public opinion of Russia and the rest of the world.
The Japanese Communist Party will make every possible effort to realize these JCP proposals so that the Japan-Russia territorial question will be solved in justice. (end)