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HOME  > Past issues  > 2012 August 1 - 14  > Territorial expansion of former Soviet Union needs to be corrected
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2012 August 1 - 14 [TERRITORIAL ISSUE]
editorial 

Territorial expansion of former Soviet Union needs to be corrected

August 1, 2012
Akahata editorial

Foreign Minister Genba Koichiro on July 28 met with his counterpart in Russia. Genba also had a talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin. When Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko first met with Putin in June, they agreed upon the “resumption” of negotiations over the territorial issue. FM Genba’s visit to Russia this time indicates that the Noda government wants to bring about certain results in regard to the territorial talks.

To facilitate the negotiations, it is essential for Japan to be based on historical and internationally-acceptable arguments. Without utilizing these arguments, nothing will be solved and the government may end up wavering between hope and despair depending on the Russian response.

All the Chishimas are Japanese territory

Putin in the past showed his “willingness” to hold negotiations with the Japanese government led by the Liberal Democratic Party. His re-emergence in leadership position now gives PM Noda an expectation of moving forward in negotiations. Reportedly, Noda in a telephone conference with Putin called for a “resolution based on shared wisdom”. Wisdom is, of course, necessary. However, superficial diplomacy will be incapable of settling the issue and may even deceive the public into accepting the superficial arguments.

The Chishima Archipelago, including Kunashiri and Etorofu islands, are historically Japanese territory which was confirmed not in war but in peaceful talks between Japan and Russia in the 19th century. Therefore, Russia’s claim to the islands is totally illogical. Returning to this starting point, Japan should emphasize the legitimacy of its claim.

The former Soviet Union on the occasion of the end of WWII annexed the Chishima Archipelago and occupied part of Hokkaido, the islands of Habomai and Shikotan. Doing this, Russia violated the principle of “no territorial expansion” laid down in the 1943 Cairo Declaration, which deals with post-war measures, and also trampled on the July 1945 Potsdam Declaration, which states that these measures were to be implemented.

In the pursuit of expansionism, Stalin, at the Yalta Conference (February 1945), had the U.S. and Britain promise behind the scenes to “give up” the Chishimas in exchange for Russia’s entry into the war against Japan.

The Japanese government led by Yoshida Shigeru accepted the unfair territorial provision (Paragraph C of Article 2) which was incorporated in the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty. He declared the renunciation of Japan’s claim to the archipelago, and that was a major blunder.

The LDP governments, Yoshida’s successors, showed no sign of correcting his mistake. They instead deepened the inconsistency by calling for the return of Kunashiri, Etorofu, Habomai, and Shikotan on the grounds that these northern four islands are not part of the Chishimas, which is an internationally flawed and unacceptable argument.

The Noda government has taken over the stance of the successive LDP governments, calling for the return of only the “northern four islands”. His government should reevaluate the LDP stance to achieve a lasting settlement. The need now is for the government to reexamine the “provision regarding renunciation of the Chishimas” written into the San Francisco Peace Treaty and to request the return of the entire Chishima Archipelago to Japan. Concerning the islands of Habomai and Shikotan, Japan should request their restoration to the condition before the San Francisco treaty was concluded.

Japan should no longer be subservient to the dictates of the United States in regard to a reconsideration of the San Francisco treaty because the treaty’s “provision on renunciation of the Chishimas” was based on the secret deals made in Yalta between the U.S., Britain, and the Soviet Union.

Independence to solve territorial issue

As long as PM Noda and FM Genba keep showing a meek attitude towards the U.S. regarding the “giving up” of the Chishimas, there will be no room left for Japan to put forward a reasoned argument based on historical facts. The most basic requirement needed to settle the territorial issue is for Japan to adopt a principled stance in order to ensure its true sovereignty.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in the ministerial meeting told Genba that the four islands became part of Russian territory “as a consequence of Soviet sacrifices during WWII”. That is Russia’s position in regard to the issue of law and justice, he said.

To counter this argument, Japan must make reasonable claim in a straightforward manner based on historical facts.
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