Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 24.07.2018
Russia’s war against Ukraine and its illegitimate hold over Crimea and part of Donbas in Ukraine has gone on for over four years. But Russia has not signed a peace treaty with Japan and has maintained its illegitimate hold over the Northern Territories of Japan for almost 73 years. Muscovy imperialist aggression has harmed every single one of its neighbours. In the age of hybrid and cyber warfare, every democratic and independent country is under threat from Putin at war.
The islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group make up the Northern Territories of Japan. The Soviet Union invaded, occupied, and claimed to have annexed the Northern Territories in August 1945, and imposed the name “Southern Kurils” on them. The Russian Federation continues formal hostilities against Japan to this day, to the detriment of the economic development of Russia’s Far East region.
The boundary between Japan and Russia properly lies between the islands of Etorofu and Uruppu. This was established by the Treaty of Commerce, Navigation and Delimitation on 7 February 1855. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan: “The Northern Territories, consisting of four islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and Habomai, are an inherent part of the territory of Japan, which have never been held by foreign countries. However, the Northern Territories have been under illegal occupation by the Soviet Union, and then Russia, since the Soviet Union occupied them in 1945.”
Japan is seeking to advance the return of the Northern Territories from illegitimate Russian occupation by accelerating planned joint economic activities. Japan is an economic giant whereas Russia is an economic non-entitity in the Pacific Rim. Japan’s parliament amended it’s law on the Northern Territories to fine-tune its unaltered policy to return Japanese territory to Japanese sovereign control.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that revisions to the “Act on Special Measures regarding Advancement of Resolution of Northern Territories Issues,” which was passed by the National Diet of Japan, would block talks on joint economic activities between Russia and Japan. Japan’s Foreign Minister, Taro Kono, said: “ I do not believe it poses any particular impediment. Japan has carefully explained this point to the Russian side.”
Russia’s statement was bordering on hysteria. It referred to the idea that the Northern Territories of Japan belong to Japan as “far-fetched.” It accused Japan of pushing “unacceptable options for resolving the peace treaty issue.” The Soviet Union declared war on Japan on 8 August 1945. The Soviet Union failed to sign a peace treaty until its collapse in 1991, and the Russian Federation has continued the stubborn refusal to make peace with Japan.
For the second year running, Japan flew a group of elderly former residents of the Northern Territories to visit the grave sites of their relatives. “It is bliss for me to console the souls of the many people buried in our hometown,” said Tadaaki Iwasaki, an 84-year-old former resident of the island of Etorofu. 70 Japanese people visited Kunashiri and Etorofu, Northern Territories, Japan for two days, returning to Hokkaido, Japan on July 23.
Foreign Minister Taro Kono gave the Japanese government’s reasoning for conducting an extended, overnight visit, at a press conference on July 20. “The former residents continue to grow ever more advanced in age. Out of consideration for their health and other factors, we wanted to facilitate grave visits in a manner that would place the least possible burden on them,” he said.
The dignity of the Japanese visitors was offended by the Russian occupation authorities, who seized the phones from Japanese officials and press at an airport in Kunashiri, Northern Territories. The Japanese government says Russia has no authority to take such arbitrary and aggressive action, and has lodged a protest with Russia, saying it was “extremely regrettable.” Seizing phones from visitors is something that North Koreans authorities do.
The only thing Russia has going for it to cling to the Northern Territories of Japan is its military. Russia has built up its military presence on the Northern Territories. The number of aircraft scrambled by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force in response to provocative flights by the Russian Aerospace Forces has increased significantly in recent years.
In fact, Japan’s armed forces, although called ‘self-defence forces’ are considerably stronger than the Russian armed forces in the Pacific. Russia is a nuclear-armed state and Japan is a non-nuclear armed state. A similar balance of power holds, locally, in Ukraine. Some analysts are of the opinion that Russia does not have the capacity to undertake the sustained offensive military operations it would take to conquer and defeat Ukraine with conventional forces. Ukraine has a quarter-million person strong army that is growing in capacity every day, and has reworked its defence of the homeland in Donbas as the Joint Forces Operation, which as well as the Armed Forces of Ukraine includes the Security Service of Ukraine, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, the National Police, emergency services and other organizations.
The Northern Territories belong to Japan. Crimea and Donbas belong to Ukraine. Russia is as nervous about its slim hold over seized Japanese territory as it is about its tenuous grasp over Ukrainian territory. In both cases, Russian propaganda is shrill that the issues are settled: the Northern Territories are the “Southern Kurils” and Crimea is ‘annexed’ to the Russian Federation. Only strength is respected by the Putin regime, never appeasement. With respect to their own territory, Japan and Ukraine will never surrender their claims, and Russia’s illegitimate occupations will never rest easily.