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What is the News?
Japan’s Diplomatic Bluebook for 2022 described the Kuril Islands (which Japan calls the Northern Territories and Russia as the South Kurils) as being under Russia’s “illegal occupation”.
This is the first time in about two decades that Japan has used this phrase to describe the dispute over the Kuril Islands.
What is the Kuril Islands Dispute?
Have there been attempts made to resolve the Kuril Islands Dispute?
Since 1991, there have been many attempts to resolve the dispute and sign a peace treaty. The most recent attempt was under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when joint economic development of the disputed islands was explored.
In fact, both countries had agreed to have bilateral negotiations based on the 1956 Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration.
Russia was even willing to give back two islands, the Shikotan Island and the Habomai islets. But the offer was rejected by Japan as the two islands constituted only 7% of the land in question.
Why has Japan raised the Kuril Islands dispute now?
Japan has raised the Kuril Islands dispute due to the following reasons:
Firstly, Japan has probably been spurred by its fears of a Russia-China alliance as Japan itself has territorial disputes and an uneasy history with China.
Secondly, Japan might have felt that this is a good opportunity to further isolate Russia and paint it as a “habitual offender” of international law.
Finally, Japan might have been prompted to take this position as it feels that the invasion of Ukraine proves that getting back the Kuril Islands is a lost cause.
Source: This post is based on the article “The quarrel over kuril Islands” published in The Hindu on 26th April 2022.