(Japan/Russia/Southern Kurils) Japan plans to carry out joint activity with Russia on Southern Kurils (TASS)

Japan plans to carry out joint economic activity with Russia on the Southern Kuril Islands, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on Monday during a program speech at the opening session of the parliament. The speech was transmitted on Japanese TV.

“We are steadily working on carrying out joint economic activity [with Russian] on four northern islands, as well as on humanitarian projects for their former residents,” the minister said. “As the ones responsible for the negotiation process, we are working on promoting it in accordance with the policy aimed to resolve the territorial issue and sign a peace treaty [with Russian], following the agreements reached in Singapore in 2018.”

Motegi also stressed the need for “close cooperation between Russia and Japan not only at the level of heads of state, but foreign ministries as well to resolve the issue of the Northern Territories (Japan’s name for the Southern Kuril Islands – TASS).”

Since the mid-20th century, Russia and Japan have been holding consultations in order to clinch a peace treaty as a follow-up to World War II. The Kuril Islands issue remains the key sticking point since after WWII the islands were handed over to the Soviet Union while Japan laid claims to the four southern islands.

In November 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Singapore and agreed that the two countries would accelerate the pace of the peace negotiations based on the 1956 Joint Declaration. The document ended the state of war and said that the Soviet government was ready to hand Shikotan Island and a group of small islands called Habomai over to Japan on condition that Tokyo would take control of them once a peace treaty was signed.

However, after Japan and the United States had signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security in 1960, the Soviet Union withdrew its obligation to hand over the islands. A Soviet government’s memorandum dated January 27, 1960 said that those islands would only be handed over to Japan if all foreign troops were pulled out of the country.

Russia has stated on numerous occasions that the document does not set out handover conditions and thus requires further clarification.