This week it became known that Japan softened its position on the Kuril Islands, agreeing to return to the discussion of the transfer of only two of the four islands. A Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, on Sunday reported that progress in discussing even this option depends on whether Tokyo provides guarantees of non-deployment of American troops in these territories. According to the newspaper Asahi Shimbun, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already promised this to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Shinzo Abe clarified his statement on Wednesday about his readiness to return to the discussion of the territorial issue on the basis of a joint Russian-Japanese declaration of 1956. She, we recall, assumed that the Soviet Union was ready to transfer the islands of Shikotan and Habomai to Japan after the peace treaty between the two countries was signed. According to the Prime Minister, his statement does not contradict Tokyo’s previous position that “first you need to resolve the territorial issue, and then sign a peace treaty.”
According to the Japanese prime minister, it turns out that “solving the territorial issue” is not equivalent to the transfer of all four islands, and this in itself is a serious departure from the previous position. At the talks with Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, the two leaders "agreed to speed up the negotiation process in order not to leave it to the next generations." The simplest version of such an “acceleration” is the consent of the Japanese side to the two islands, since earlier Moscow had already agreed to seriously consider such an option. And not only in 1956, but also in 2001, when Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori came to Russia for a supporter of rapprochement with Russia. However, as early as April of the same year, he was forced to resign for reasons unrelated to the Kuril Islands and was replaced by the hard pro-American prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, who immediately returned to the demand for Russia to return all four islands.
It is the doubts that the successors of Shinzo Abe will abide by the agreements reached by him will become, apparently, the main stumbling block in the negotiations. As stated on Sunday, speaking on the air of "Russia 1", the press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Peskov, one of the main issues for Moscow is the guarantee of non-deployment of the American military in the Kurils. According to the US-Japan Treaty of 1960, the United States has the right to deploy its forces and military bases in Japan, and if part of the Kuril Islands is transferred to Tokyo’s sovereignty, this provision of the treaty cannot be excluded. “Russia is a learned country that has a bitter experience in terms of NATO, for example,” said Dmitry Peskov. He cited the example given to the first president of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev by the oral promise of the leaders of the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany not to admit to the alliance the former countries of the socialist camp located east of Germany, which was subsequently violated.
Without an unequivocal answer to the question of whether the American military will appear on the transferred islands, "it will be impossible to budge," Mr. Peskov added.
On Friday, the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, citing its sources in the Prime Minister’s office, said that during the confidential talks, Shinzo Abe promised Vladimir Putin that there would be no American troops for the transfer of the islands of Japan. Meanwhile, in November 2016, in the course of negotiations between the heads of the Security Council of the Russian Federation and Japan, Nikolai Patrushev and Setaro Yati, the position of the Japanese side was exactly the opposite. Then to the direct question of Mr. Patrushev, whether American troops could be stationed on the islands if they were transferred, Mr. Yati answered that "this is possible." After that, the negotiations are at an impasse, in which they remain until now.
According to James Brown, a political science professor at Temple University in Japan, to resolve this issue, even according to the 1956 version, Tokyo will have to fulfill two conditions. “Firstly, it’s right to recognize Russian sovereignty over Iturup and Kunashir, the other two islands,” he writes in a column for The Japan Times.- Secondly, in writing to exclude the returned islands of Japan from the US-Japan treaty of 1960. Oral promise not to deploy US troops there will not be enough. " After the signing of the peace treaty and the unconditional recognition of the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over two of the four islands, it will be possible to begin negotiations on expanding access to them for Japanese citizens in the new conditions, the author notes.
Japanese experts were divided in their assessment of the prospects for further negotiations. Professor Kyoto Sangyo of the University of Kyoto, former diplomat Katsuhiko of Togo, in an interview with the Japanese channel NHK, called the new statements of the parties a “historic turning point.” “For the first time in history, the two sides agreed on the fundamental structure of future agreements,” he expressed his enthusiasm.
But the professor at the University of Tsukuba Itsuro Nakamura in an interview with RIA Novosti is not so optimistic. “Now a statement by Shinzo Abe, which contradicts the traditional position of Japan, has split the political camp,” he said. “I believe that there is a risk that Prime Minister Abe will be forced to resign after the conclusion of the treaty. But I think that even in this case he should conclude a peace treaty. There is no other way. And I think he will try to conclude it in the three years that he should remain as head of the party and as prime minister. ”
Most Japanese remain supporters of the conclusion of a peace treaty with the Russian Federation only after the “settlement of the territorial dispute”.
According to the results of the September poll of the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, such a figure was 75%. The question did not include options with two and four islands, but traditionally in Japan, “settlement” means the transfer of all the South Kuriles as a whole.