Fresh bid to end Russia and Japan's territorial row

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Japanese counterpart, Masahiko Komura, have said they are ready to move towards a peace settlement between the two countries. A dispute between the two over who owns the Kuril Islands has prevented the signi

Sergey Lavrov is in Japan with the aim of improving relations, which have been rocky for decades. The territorial dispute between the two countries tops the agenda, ahead of economic ties and improving trade relations.

The Kuril Islands became Russian territory at the end of the Second World War. Since then Japan has been demanding the return of the islands. Russia’s stance is firm. Moscow insists the issue has been definitely resolved and cannot be reviewed.

During the meeting the two sides also expressed their mutual interest in developing co-operation between the two countries.

Meanwhile, former Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Georgy Kunadze, said that without an internationally agreed border, it is difficult to see how the two sides will reach a compromise over the Kuril Islands.

“The absence of a peace treaty means that there is no mutually agreed and internationally recognised border between the two sovereign states. Obviously, it would be much better if we had this treaty and if we managed to resolve the controversy. As it is now, I cannot think of any Japanese government that is strong enough to drop these demands all together, and I cannot think of any Russian government which is crazy enough just to give away the islands,” he said.  

Vasily Perfiliev from Japan Today magazine believes the deadlocked territorial row over the Kuril Islands has great political and strategic implications, yet has little impact on commercial ties. “Although the territorial dispute does affect economic ties, private investments always go where the environment is good. So if the investment climate in Siberia and the Far East and throughout Russia in general is favourable for Japanese investors they will definitely come here,” he stressed.