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Japan Claiming to Our Islands As to Its Northern Territories

07.02.2007 12:10

Anastasya Ptitsina

The Shikotan, Kunashir, Itirup islands and Habomai rocks claimed by Japan are very important to Russia.

In terms of strategy these islands provide for safe routes of supply to military bases located in Kamchatka and control over air and maritime space in the Sea of Okhotsk and Western Pacific. Should Japan gain control over this area it will block exit of Russian warships from the Sea of Okhotsk to the Pacific. In terms of economy the Kuril Island area is a habitat of the fifth part of all fishery resources in the entire Far East Region. Transfer of the Kuril Islands will mean not only the loss of 8.5 thousand sq. km, but also the annual loss of 800 thousands tons of produced seafood, as well as deposits of oil, gas, gold, silver, etc. totaling about 3 trillion Dollars.

In order to solve the territorial problem existing in the opinion of Tokyo between our states the Japanese authorities pursue a wide-scale campaign to return the islands to Japan. The return of the Kuril Islands to Japan already became ?a part of Japanese national mentality?. The Japanese are aware well enough of the territorial dispute between the two states due to the awareness campaign in the Japanese mass media. Japanese officials often claim that absence of a peace treaty between the Russian federation and Japan, and the territorial dispute radically hamper the progress in bilateral relations.

Japanese politicians and ultra-right-wing parties especially exacerbate this problem on February 7 on so-called ?Day of Northern Territories?. A large meeting devoted to the Day of Northern Territories is held annually in Tokyo. The meeting is addressed by the Japanese Prime Minister. Mass rallies are held on this day in other cities too. Ultra-right-wing groups c onduct actions at the Russian Embassy in Tokyo. The participants of these actions demand return of ?the indigenous Japanese territories?. Government-funded boards with standard slogan ?The Day of Northern Territory Return Is a Day of Peace? are mounted in the streets of the cities. Local municipal councils regularly adopt resolutions demanding to transfer the Kuril Islands to Japan. Besides, there are several organizations in Japan now that stand for the return of ?the Northern Territories? and perform active work in this direction.

Simultaneously, the Japanese authorities actively use Internet capabilities. In particular, there is a page devoted to ?the Northern Territories? in the web-site of the Japanese Government. There is also a web-site titled ?Northern Territory Return Headquarters? (Hokkaido) in the Internet that has several pages devoted to this problem. One of them reflects the opinion of the Hokkaido Administration on the existing problem, the second page describes measures taken to return the Kuril Islands, and the third one contains colorful pictures of the Kuril Islands shot during visits to these islands within the framework of free-travel exchange.

Besides the Japanese authorities are lobbying among heads of local administrations and legislators to promote an idea of Kuril diplomatic seizure.

Surveys of Kuril Island residents on their opinion on transfer of the Kuril Islands to Japan already became traditional. Russian delegations in Japanese ports are often met by ultra-right-wing demonstrators with posters in Russian and English: ?Return our islands back!? Japanese delegates arriving to the islands on visa-free visits often expressly offer to Russian citizens to send official letters to the Russian Government in support of accelerated decision on transfer of the islands to Japan.

One of the forms of influence on the Russian and Japanese population is publication of maps, in which the Southern Kuril Islands are included into the Japanese territory. Such map-making aggression became especially popular lately. Sometimes such maps are offered to Russian tourists in Japan and sent to Russia with humanitarian aid. In Japan itself they are demonstratively posted on the walls of official institutions. Very often Japanese magazines and newspapers issued for the Russian public also publish these maps, in which not only four Southern Kuril islands but also a half of Sakhalin are included in the Japanese territory.

In other words, Land of the Rising Sun for a long time endeavors to achieve its goal ? to gain jurisdiction over the Russian islands.