Japan’s decades-old territorial row with Russia looks to finally be resolved shortly as Japan prime minister Shinzo Abe declared that he wants to find a “mutually acceptable solution” and sign a long-delayed peace treaty with Moscow over the Northern Territories. These conciliatory statements are in an obvious opposite direction to the PM’s uncompromising stance with China in a dispute over a different set of islands.
Towards the end of the year in 2012, Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin restarted the talks on signing a peace treaty over the island dispute, hoping to formally end hostilities that went as far back as World War II. Efforts to end the tension between the two countries have so far been stymied by the dispute.
“In the telephone talks, I told President Putin I would make efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution so as to ultimately solve the issue of the Northern Territories,” Abe told a government-organized rally of around 2,000 former residents of the islands and their descendants in Tokyo. The collective memory of the islanders will not have forgotten the time when Soviet forces seized the isles in the dying days of WWII and drove out the Japanese residents. Geographically, the territories stretch out into rich fishing waters off the northern coast of Hokkaido. The islands were later re-populated by Russians but remain a poor and undeveloped part of the country.
Abe’s comments have come in a time when tensions between Japan and China have escalated over the sovereignty of the Tokyo-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, claimed by Beijing as the Diaoyus. An incident happened on Tuesday where a Chinese frigate had locked its weapons-targeting radar onto a Japanese military vessel. Abe on Wednesday called the actions “dangerous” and “provocative.”[ via Global Post ]