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Japan and Russia Still Deadlocked over Generation-Long Dispute

July 9, 2009

Background: On the conclusion of World War II, Japan was forced to give back a lot of its territory it had received from its imperial reign. However it did manage to hold onto Okinawa, and multiple island chains. The one island chain that was never “given” back to Japan, and remains disputed to this day, are “The Northern Islands”; or the Kurile Islands, according to Russia. Because neither side can concede on who really controls the islands, Russia seeing it as a symbol of their conquest during WWII, a peace treaty has still never been signed between the two countries.

Yesterday President Medvedev and Prime Minister Aso met to discuss this territorial issue. Last October, Medvedev met with Prime Minister Aso and said “this territorial dispute cannot be handed down to the next generation.” This May when Putin came to visit Japan he stated that Prime Minster Aso and Medvedev should explore “every option” this July when they meet in Italy. Despite expectations, the Japanese newspapers reported on the lack of decision this July.

Asahi “The Northern Territories: No New Proposal from Russia” The Asahi reported that the main focus of the conversation between Medvedev and Aso was the Northern Territories. The Russian President had no new proposal, and expressed that Russia “Would continue to use a creative approach.” Prime Minister Aso commented (in regards to economic cooperation and The Northern Territories Dispute) “It is necessary to take both sides of interest into account going forward.”

They also agreed to continue discussing matters of security in Asia, although again with no real decision being made.

Nikkei “The Northern Territories: They Have Agreed to Continue Negotiations. There was no Concrete Development.” The Nikkei is a more conservative paper compared to the Asahi, and it is interesting how they shaped the conversation to actually show agreement. Although they do mention there was “no concrete development” on the Northern Territories dispute.

The agreement, according to the Nikkei, was to “continue high level talks to reach a solution that can be accepted by both sides.” The Russian President explained that his parliament has rejected the bill that was passed by the Japanese parliament that claims the Northern Territories are Japanese. “The negotiations need to continue” the President said.

Yomiuri “The American – Japanese Meeting Lasted 25 Minutes Over Dinner” Surprisingly, the Yomiuri did not publish an article about the meeting between Medvedev and Aso.  Maybe they felt there wasn’t that much to report on?

Instead, the headline was about the American and Japanese meeting, which focused on North Korea, and the ability of the American military to protect Japan in case of invasion. The Prime Minister also offered his warning that North Korea launching missiles in the region is a large security risk.

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