In the international agreements between Russia and Japan, since century 19, the Kuril Islands are qualified as part of Japan.
The Kuril Islands had been occupied by the Soviet Red army in the summer of 1945, as continuation of the World War II. In certain sense, the war still continues there: the islands remain occupied by the Soviet and then by the Russian troops.
For Japan, there islands seem to be very important North territory.
The recovery of the Japanese control at the Kuril Islands are considered in connection of problems of other territories, occupied and plundered by the USSR and Russia since the World War II (1939-1945) Karelia (since 1939), Koenigsberg (since 1945), Donbass (since 2014), Crimea (since 2014), Abkhazia (since 2008) and South Ossetia (since 2008).
Two points of view
The difference in approach of Japan and Russia can be seen from the comparison of notices about meeting of Shinzo Abe and Vladimir Putin, described in Japanese new and in Russian news. The meeting seems to take place 2016.05.07.
http://tass.ru/en/politics/874213 SOCHI, May 6. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a meeting on Friday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who will arrive in Sochi with a working visit. The Kremlin expects the agreements reached earlier on the comprehensive development of bilateral ties to be confirmed following the talks.
The Japanese premier last visited Russia in February 2014 when he attended the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. To date, Putin and Abe met 12 times, mostly in the framework of international forums. The talks between Putin and Abe are due to begin in the middle of the day with a meeting in a narrow format, then a tete-a-tete is expected and after that - a working lunch with the participation of the delegations. Neither signing any document no press briefing are planned after the meeting.
Kuril Islands and peace treaty
Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov has confirmed talking to reporters that the Kuril Islands issue and the problem of concluding a peace treaty associated with it will be discussed in Sochi, especially since October will mark 60 years since the signing of the 1956 joint declaration on the termination of the state of war between the USSR and Japan. According to the Kremlin’s representative, to make progress on resolving this territorial dispute "it is necessary to create a positive, constructive atmosphere in bilateral relations." "Our stance boils down to the fact that this issue is complex and multifaceted and can only be resolved under the terms and conditions that are suitable for both sides. These issues can be resolved only by establishing deeper partnership between our countries, really broad cooperation in the economic, scientific, technical and cultural areas and active cooperation in the international arena," Ushakov said. He recalled that the dialogue between the two countries on this issue is maintained between the foreign ministries, and "to reach a mutually acceptable settlement, more than one meeting and one round of consultations are required."
Syria and other international problems
The Kremlin notes that the talks with the Russian leader are important for Abe ahead of the meeting of the G7 leaders to be held in Japan in late May. "During this summit crucial international issues will be discussed as well, including the Syrian settlement. Of course, it is very important for the Japanese premier to synchronize watches with the Russian leader in this context," Ushakov said, adding that Ukraine, the situation on the Korean Peninsula, cooperation within the UN and other issues will be discussed at the meeting.
The Russian side is ready to discuss the sanctions issue but will not raise it itself. "We did not initiate the imposition of sanctions, and we are not asking for their termination," Ushakov noted. He also said that Tokyo was not satisfied with the situation when other G7 members maintain contacts with Russia at various levels. "Japan too has its own interests in the Russian direction, and all the issues associated with this will be discussed (at the talks)," the Russian presidential aide said.
Invitation to Japan
The talks in Sochi can clarify the issue of the Russian leader’s possible visit to Japan, which was repeatedly postponed since 2013 on Tokyo’s initiative. "There are plenty of media reports saying the premier will be able to again renew the invitation to Putin to come to Japan. We are ready for that and are waiting for specific dates of such a visit, because we believe that it is necessary to continue dialogue with Japan at the highest political level," the Russian presidential aide said.
For its part, the Russian side will offer the Japanese prime minister to take part in the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on September 2-3. In addition to that, the Russian and Japanese leaders have other good opportunities for working contacts during the current year, in particular, at the G20 summit in China’s Hangzhou on September 4-5 and the APEC summit in Peru in November.
View from Japanese perspective
Shinzo Abe confirmed on the eve of his arrival in Sochi that he would like the Russian leader to pay a visit to Japan "at the most appropriate time for this." The Japanese premier is determined to maintain close and open dialogue Putin on a wide range of issues, including Ukraine, Syria and the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group (outlawed in Russia). Concerning the territorial issue between the two countries, Abe noted that "this problem could be only solved if there were regular and fruitful contacts between the two countries’ leaders." "I am going to Russia, with which I want to build the relations that would make it possible for us to cope with various international problems together," he said.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/05/07/national/politics-diplomacy/abe-meets-putin-advance-bilateral-talks-isle-row-peace-treaty Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi on Friday. Abe meets Putin, agrees to ‘new approach’ in bid to resolve festering territorial dispute. MAY 7, 2016.
SOCHI, RUSSIA – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe voiced confidence about resolving Japan’s territorial dispute with Russia after talks Friday with President Vladimir Putin — but Tokyo may have few cards left to play as it seeks to win concessions from Moscow.
Japan has pinned its hopes primarily on boosting economic cooperation, which it believes will have spillover effects on the territorial row. Russia seized three islands and a group of islets off Hokkaido at the end of World War II and Tokyo and Moscow have yet sign a postwar peace treaty.
Tokyo’s confidence in its economic leverage has been strengthened by the sluggishness of the Russian economy, which has been hit by falling oil prices, the depreciation of the ruble and high inflation.
Tokyo also believes Putin’s pivot to the east, in which he has focused on developing the resource-rich Russian Far East and the Siberian region, is working in its favor.
“We, of course, believe that peace treaty negotiations and joint economic projects with Russia should be conducted in parallel,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko, a close Abe aide, told reporters following the leaders’ talks in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.
In Friday’s talks, Abe laid out an eight-point plan, outlining how Tokyo and Moscow could cooperate in the revitalization of the Russian Far East, energy development and the construction of state-of-the-art hospitals among other areas.
“I have a sense that we are moving toward a breakthrough in the stalled peace treaty negotiations,” Abe told reporters after his three-hour meeting with Putin in Sochi. The talks included a 30-minute session where the leaders talked one-on-one, a Japanese official said.
“We agreed to resolve the peace treaty issue by ourselves as we seek to build a future-oriented relationship. We will proceed with the negotiations with a new approach, free of any past ideas,” Abe said without offering any specifics.
The Japanese official said the “new approach” does not mean a change in Japan’s stance to seek resolution on the ownership of the disputed islands — Etorofu, Kunashiri and Shikotan, as well as the Habomai islets group off northeast Hokkaido. The disputed islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia, were seized by the Soviet Union following Japan’s August 1945 surrender at the end of World War II.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Abe and Putin used the talks to discuss concrete dates for a visit to Japan by the Russian leader.
Japan believes that only talks between the nations’ leaders can move the territorial issue forward. A 2014 plan for the Russian president to visit was put off after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March of that year, souring Moscow’s relations with Western countries and Japan.
Abe and Putin also agreed to hold a meeting of senior officials on the territorial dispute in June, Lavrov told reporters following the talks.
At the meeting, Putin invited Abe to participate in the Eastern Economic Forum to be held in Vladivostok in September. The forum will bring together business and government representatives to discuss investment opportunities in Russia’s Far East and the Asia-Pacific region.
Abe showed a willingness to participate, noting the importance of cooperation in the Russian Far East, according to the Japanese official.
In addition to their meeting in Vladivostok, Abe said he also looks forward to the possibility of meeting Putin on the fringes of July’s Asia-Europe summit in Mongolia, as well as in September at the Group of 20 summit in China and in October during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, the official said.
In hopes that economic incentives will have a positive effect on the territorial talks, Abe presented Putin with an eight-point plan to forge closer ties, including in areas such as oil and gas production, development of the Russian Far East and construction of medical centers.
The Russian Far East and Siberian regions are rich in energy resources to which Putin has attached great importance in developing. Japan is also interested in energy development with Russia as it looks to reduce its heavy dependence on oil imports from the Middle East.
Although Moscow may see benefits in expanding economic cooperation with Tokyo through developing energy and other projects in Russia’s eastern regions, the advantage would likely not be big enough to draw the concessions on the territorial issue Japan is looking for, analysts say.
“The principal incentive that Abe plans to offer is Japanese economic investment in Russia, especially in Siberia and the Russian Far East,” said James Brown, associate professor at Temple University in Tokyo, who specializes in Japan-Russia relations. “This is unquestionably something that the Russian authorities desire. But Russian enthusiasm for closer economic ties with Japan is not nearly strong enough to persuade the country’s leadership to make deeply unpopular concessions.
“The Japanese side misjudges the extent of its economic leverage,” he added.
Russia is also likely to insist that Japan’s proposal for cooperation is not a one-sided affair but a mutually beneficial undertaking.
Japanese firms have a strong interest in doing business in Russia despite the difficult political situation, so Russia would like to aid in the operations of Japanese companies, Putin told Abe, according to Seko.
Through closer economic ties with Russia, Japan can expect an increase in oil and gas imports, which would be in line with its desire to diversify energy imports that are currently heavily dependent on the geographically far-off Middle East.
Japanese firms already have stakes in oil and gas projects off the Russian Far Eastern island of Sakhalin.
For the Japanese firms who do seek to do business in Russia, barriers in the form of complicated administrative procedures, vague and unclear application of laws, and lengthy waiting times for visas and work permits are seen as larger hindrances than the 70-year-old territorial row.
In terms of improving the investment environment, Japan and Russia are already making progress.
Ministerial-level talks on trade and the economy took place for the 11th time in Moscow last September, and a bilateral advisory council on the modernization of the Russian economy held its fifth meeting in October in Tokyo.
Moreover, even if Japan finds its economic leverage effective, it will likely have reservations about offering generous economic support to Russia in consideration of its ties with the United States and other Western powers, which have criticized Russia for its actions in Ukraine.
Russia’s membership in the Group of Eight was suspended over what Group of Seven members called the illegal annexation of the Crimean region.
U.S. President Barack Obama had urged Abe in February not to meet with Putin under the current circumstances, sources said at the time.
Japan, which hosts the annual G-7 summit later this month in Mie Prefecture, must now play a delicate balancing act as it seeks both closer Russian ties and to stay in lockstep with Western nations that have imposed sanctions on Moscow over Crimea.
2016.5.15 18:00. http://www.sankei.com/premium/news/160512/prm1605120012-n1.html 安倍首相「新たなアプローチ」で北方領土奪還へ 平成３０年９月までに… プーチン大統領との直接交渉を急ぐ// 安倍晋三首相は、ロシアから北方領土を奪還するため、プーチン大統領との首脳外交で解決を図る方針に舵を切った。日本は、ロシアに北方領土交渉で幾度も煮え湯を飲まされてきた。安倍首相は自身の自民党総裁任期を見据え、勝負をかけ始めた。..