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Japan expects the Kuril Islands return
February 8, 2008 17:56

Japan and Russia intends to solve the problem of disputable territories. On Tuesday the Japanese newspaper the Japan Today reported that the Russian president has suggested to Japanese Prime-Minister Yasuo Fukuda ending all the territorial disputes on the Kuril Islands and has sent him a letter inviting him to come to Russia for discussion.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry reports that the Prime-minister is planning to arrive in Moscow in the end of April or in the beginning of May before or after Fukudos visit to German and other European countries. The European tour is regarded as a prelude to the G8 summit this year. At the moment Japan is a holder of the G8 presidency. Mr. Fukuda has claimed he intends to set the territorial issue with Russia on the agenda of the G8 summit, which will take place July 7-9 near Lake Toya in the north Japanese island Hokkaido. In this case the question is to be discussed with a new president of Russia.

Masahiko Komura, the Japanese Foreign Minister, may pay an official visit to Russia in the end of March to prepare the meeting on the high level.

"I now realize well that the president wants to resolve the territorial issue," Fukuda told reporters late on Wednesday. "I would like to proactively work on that."

The territorial dispute over islands Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and archipelago Habomai. has prevented the two countries signing a peace deal in the six decades since the WWII ended.

"Resolving the Northern Territories issue and concluding a peace treaty is essential to lift Russo-Japanese ties to higher levels," Fukuda told a packed hall in Tokyo to mark Northern Territories Day, an annual rally to remember the loss of the islands.

The Japanese premier considers Russia to be the most important neighbor with which it shares many common problems. Thats why the progress of bilateral relations is among Japans priorities. Mr. Komura says this year is to become significant in building Russian- Japanese relations.

The Japanese government means to put more efforts to promote the movement in support of the North Territory return. Usually is comes into a meetings and riot of right-wing campaigners who used to cruise the streets in loudspeaker vans blaring nationalist music and chanting slogans calling for the return of the islands around the Russian embassy in Tokyo on so called Northern Territories Day annually on February 7.

Yesterday a group of Japanese activists dressed in uniform, holding national flags crowded near the Russian embassy read out loud petitions, written in calligraphic handwriting, demanding to return the islands. Some of them cried out Return the North Territories and You have occupied illegally our land. Then right-wing campaigners left their petitions for the Russian embassy. The police guarded the order. No accident happened. According to the Russian embassy about 500 people take park in such meeting from year to year.

The Russian embassy didnt take any special precautions as relied on the Japanese police. Still Russian children and their parents who study in the embassy school were recommended not to come to school on Tuesday.

The sparsely populated islands in dispute are in the Kuril chain between Japan's northern island of Hokkaido and Russia's far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula, with the closest just 15 km (9 miles) from Hokkaido.

They were seized by the Soviet Union after it declared war on Japan on August 8, 1945, just a week before Japan surrendered, sending about 17,000 Japanese fleeing.


Irina Fomina


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