Dispute over Kuril Islands

Japan has said that four islands near the Kamchatka Peninsula have been illegally occupied by Russia. The Japanese call these islands ‘the Northern Territories’ while Russia calls them ‘Kurils.’

Overview:

  • The islands stretch north across the Pacific Ocean from Japan’s Hokkaido to Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula’s southernmost tip.
  • These islands have been in the midst of a longstanding issue between Japan and Russia.
  • The Japanese government led by Fumio Kishida has upped its ante over these islands’ ownership.
  • For the first time in around 20 years Japan has called the islands to have been illegally occupied.
  • This term was last used in 2003 by the foreign ministry of Japan.

About the dispute

This dispute dates back to the end of the Second World War when the Soviet Union, a part of the allied forces, won the war against the Axis powers of Japan, Italy, and Germany. Russia believes that since they won the Second World War the ownership of the islands is theirs as Japan lost the territory due to its loss in the war. Japan argues that the Japanese travelled to these islands in the 16th century which is nearly 200 years before the arrival of the Russians and hence, the islands are rightfully theirs. After the end of the Second World War, Japan signed the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty with the Allied Forces where Japan renounced all right, claim, and title to the Kuril Islands. This did not solve the issue as Russia was not a part of this treaty and the government of Japan has never recognised the four islands occupied by Russia as part of the Kuril chain.

Proposal of returning the islands

In the 50s, Russia had proposed returning the two islands that are closest to Japan but the country rejected the offer. The islands that are considered by Japan as their own are named Etorofu, Kunashiri, Habomai islets, and Shikotan.

Military Drills

Russia has performed military drills on these islands intensifying fears that the peace of the Indo-Pacific region will remain threatened due to the Kuril Islands dispute.

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