Japan denies seeking ‘joint administration’ of Russia’s Kuril Islands

Tokyo has denied seeking a joint administration over the Kuril Islands, saying it wants a decisive resolution of what it calls the "issue of the possession” of the islands, which became Russian territories after Japan’s defeat in World War II.

“We deny the Nikkei report that Japan and Russia are discussing the joint administration of the Northern Territories,” Japanese foreign ministry spokesman Yasuhira Kawamura told Reuters in an email.

“There is no change in Japan’s fundamental position that Japan will conclude the peace treaty with Russia by resolving the issue of the possession of the four northern islands,” the spokesman continued.

Citing Russian and Japanese sources, Japan's Nikkei newspaper previously reported that Tokyo was considering the possibility of a joint administration of the disputed islands. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe allegedly hoped to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin of the deal during a scheduled meeting in Japan in December, the publication asserted.

The dispute between Russia and Japan over the Kuril Islands has lingered since the end of World War II. Moscow cites the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951, which abolished Japan’s sovereignty over the 56 islands that form the Kuril chain. However, Tokyo insists that four of them are not part of the archipelago and should be returned under its control.

Japan sees the issue as significant and extremely politically charged. Russia, however, has always insisted that any change in the status of the islands is out of the question, as it would constitute a reassessment of the results of World War II, which is expressly banned by international treaties.

“We do not trade territories,” Putin told Bloomberg last month when asked if he was ready to consider “giving up” one or two of the Kuril Islands in order to reach a political resolution and greater economic cooperation with Japan.

READ MORE: Russians won’t trade Kuril Islands for peace with Japan, poll shows