Alexander Anisimov – Problem of the “Northern Territories” in the Japanese-Russian Relations

Russian-Japanese relations are characterized by their territorial problems, the essence of which is that Japan has insisted on the return of the islands of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai, without which it is not going to conclude the peace treaty. In 2011, this problem has worsened. The Ministry of education of Japan allowed for use in secondary schools, textbooks of history, geography and living, where they apply wording of the “illegal occupation” of the southern Kuril Islands. In the blue book on foreign policy of Japan for the 2011 year MFA Japan there is passages relating to the so-called “territorial issue”, the foreign ministry of Japan negatively reacted to visit the southern Kuril islands by the President and the representatives of the government of the Russian Federation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reacted very negatively to these facts, while emphasizing once again that “Russia’s sovereignty over the Islands is indisputable legal basis”. And continuation of attempts to “question the membership of the southern Kuril islands is not conducive to the maintenance of Russian-Japanese relations of a constructive atmosphere.”

Considering the arguments of the Japanese side.

The first argument: the allies in the Atlantic charter and the Cairo declaration put forward the principle of “not the extension of the territories”, so accession to the Soviet Union of Sakhalin and the Kuril were illegal. And the decisions of the Yalta and Potsdam conferences have no legal force for Japan, because they are only “agreements of intent.” But both the Atlantic charter and the Cairo declaration are also the “agreements of intent” and have no binding force. But San Francisco the peace treaty of 1951 is binding for Japan, by which Japan renounced all the Kuril Islands. The Treaty is binding for Japan, and it must comply with it.

The countries of anti-hitler coalition were other principles – the punishment of the aggressor, deter future aggression on its territory and compensation of damages and costs of the war.

Therefore, even in the case of Germany a precedent was set when East Prussia was handed to Poland and the Soviet Union, as well as Silesia, Pomerania and other lands that were passed to the same Poland, despite the principle of “do not expand the territories”. Here played the role of other approaches that were more important. Germany agreed to this (couldn’t disagree, she signed the act of unconditional surrender and handed over to their fate in the hands of the winners), recognized frontiers, its territorial losses as the price of aggression, and of genocide, for the damage caused by the european countries, primarily Poland and the Soviet Union. And no one in this case does not require from Russia, Poland, to return “Northern”, “Eastern” or “south-east” “traditionally German” territories.

This precedent was extended also on Japan, which lost all its island possessions in Oceania territories seized in China, Korea, Southern Sakhalin and Kuril Islands (Kuriles was the base from which Japan attacked the United States in December 1941). It also proved the strength for the punishment of the aggressor, to prevent future and new aggression from its territory and compensation for losses. All these actions are consistent with Anglo-Saxon law lies at the heart of contemporary international law.

September 2, 1945 Japan signed the surrender Pact (Shigemitsu Ma-mauroux and Uièdzu Ësidziro, Douglas MacArthur, Nimitz I.V., Su Yongchang, Bruce Fraser, Kuzma Nikolaevich Derevyanko), where paragraph 1states, that they accept “the terms of the Declaration, published in 26 July in Potsdam by the heads of Government of the United States, China and Britain, which was subsequently joined the USSR”, in paragraph 6, it was stated that “We hereby give a commitment that the Japanese Government and his successors would sincerely implement the terms of the Potsdam Declaration [1].

8 condition of the Potsdam Declaration of July 26, 1945 stated that “Japanese sovereignty shall be restricted to the islands of Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū, Shikoku and the smaller islands, that we should” [2]. Thus, clearly stated that the Kuril islands are not part of Japan, which was confirmed in the 1951 San Francisco peace treaty.

In addition, these territorial changes were made strictly in accordance with the rules of international law, in the peace treaty of 1951, signed by Japan, without reservations, and claims. The author of this Treaty was the United States but not the Soviet Union. The Treaty Japan renounced any rights, title and claim to the southern Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, both the northern and Southern Kuril Islands.

The second argument: Roosevelt did not know about the Japanese belonging of the Kuril islands and did not read carefully the documents on the Kuril Islands, prepared for the American specialists, so he agreed to pay the Japanese islands to the USSR, and didn’t pay attention to their strategic importance. But finally the Islands have been selected from Japan by G. Truman in 1951, according to the decision of the San Francisco Conference. It is the U.S. prepared the text of the San Francisco peace treaty and the procedure of its signing. As for Roosevelt, he was well informed about the strategic importance of the islands because it is from the island of Kunashiri Japanese Combined fleet left at Pearl Harbor. It is on the Kuril Islands, the Japanese pilots simulated attack on the American base, from Kuril island was the landing of the Japanese landing on United States belonging to the Aleutian Islands.

Understanding of strategic position the Kuril Islands by Roosevelt demonstrated in the plans of their use as a reference base for operations against Japan. Such a proposal he made Stalin still in Tehran.

Roosevelt knew about the Division of the Kuril Islands on the northern and southern. He conveyed Stalin in Tegeran “Preliminary planning for naval operations in the Pacific Northwest on November 29, 1943 referred to possible assistance from the Soviet Union in the case,” if the United States began an offensive on the Northern Kuril Islands “Group [3].

The President of the United States understood the strategic importance of the Kuril Islands to the USSR. According to the memoirs of Hopkins, Roosevelt was convinced that the Sakhalin and Kuril Islands were “absolutely necessary for the security of Russia in the far East” [4].

The third argument. The concept of the Kuril Islands and Chishima “are unlike concepts. As noted Russian researcher V. Kozhevnikov in his article “the Concept of “the Kuril islands” and Chishima ” in the Russian-Japanese territorial dispute” (Russian-Japanese relations. Yearbook. 1996. №8 (“For peace and mutual relations” Seminar KANECO, university of Sapporo), p.163.): “The Kuril Islands (Chishima), from which Japan declined for the San Francisco Treaty, include all of the Ridge, including the island of Shikotan, and the territorial dispute in bilateral relations” is limited to determining the status of the islands of Habomai, because the “traditional definition of the Kuril Islands are not included in this notion of Habomai, they were traditionally considered as part of the island of Hokkojdo” Soviet and Russian specialists believed and believes that Habomai is a part of the Kuril Islands.


  1. History of Warriors in the Pacific. History of the war in the Pacific Ocean. The 5 t: Lane. with Yap. /AGG. Ed. W. Sèjdziro, E. Bokuro, T. Sigèki, etc. -M., 1958. T. IV. S. 296, 297.
  2. History of the war in the Pacific Ocean. T. IV. S. 261; The Soviet Union at the international conferences of the period of the great patriotic war. 1941-1945 yy. Digest (m-s Foreign Affairs of the USSR t-6, Berlin (Potsdam) Conference of Heads of the three allied powers-the SOVIET UNION, the United States and Great Britain (17 July-August 2, 1945)/ch. ed. A. A. Gromyko.-m., 358 s. 1984.
  3. The Soviet-British relations during the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945 yy. In 2 t.-m., 1983. T. 1. C. 456.
  4. The Second World War memoir by w. Churchill, de Gaulle, k. Hall, Legi, d. Eisenhower. M., 1990. With. 370-371: Howard m. Big strategy. August 1942-September 1943/lane. with English. -M., 1980. C. 395.

Kozhevnikov. The concept of the Kuril Islands and Chishima “in Russian-Japanese territorial dispute//Russian-Japanese relations. Yearbook. 1996. No. 8 (“for peace and relations” Seminar Kaneko, University of Sapporo). S. 163.

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