Taro Kono’ visit to Russia: a step up in the peace talks

The Japan foreign minister meets with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov

February 12th, 2019
Hoëlenn Ayoul-Guilmard, News from Berlin
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The Foreign Minister of Japan, Taro Kono, went on a five-day trip to Moscow in January to meet with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The visit’s main focus was the ongoing peace treaty as the two countries wish to step up the talks, or so was decided in November during the Russo-Japanese meeting which took place during the ASEAN-Russia Summit in Singapore.

Russia and Japan have been in talks to sign a peace treaty since the end of the World War II. The main  obstacles to achieving this talks is the ownership issue over the islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia. Japan has maintained that the islands have been illegally occupied by Russia, which seized them following Tokyo’s 1945 surrender while Moscow has pressed Japan to recognize the outcome of the war, including Russian sovereignty over the islands.

According to the 1956 joint declaration, the Soviet Union was to transfer two of the four disputed islands off Hokkaido — Shikotan and the Habomai islet group — to Japan following the conclusion of a peace treaty. It seems now that Japan will focus on the transfer of the two Russian-held islands first, despite its initial will of seeking to resolve the status of all four islands.

Following Kono’s visit to Moscow, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin is expected to visit Japan in June for a summit of the Group of 20 advanced and emerging economies in Osaka.


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