By Antonio Hermosin Gandul
Tokyo, Mar 22 (EFE).- Japan on Tuesday condemned Russia’s decision to halt peace treaty negotiations over the disputed southern Kuril Islands.
Moscow’s move once again leaves a peace agreement that would put an end to a conflict dating back to World War II up in the air and ruins years of diplomatic efforts taken by Tokyo to strengthen ties.
The decision to stop talks came on Monday in reaction to waves of sanctions imposed by the Japanese government over the war in Ukraine, from blocking Russian banks from the SWIFT financial system to freezing the assets of president Vladimir Putin, among others.
“The Russian side, in the current conditions, does not intend to continue talks with Japan on the peace treaty,” the Russian foreign minister said in a statement, accusing Tokyo of taking “unfriendly steps” toward Moscow.
“All responsibility for the damage caused to bilateral cooperation and the interests of Japan itself rests with the authorities in Tokyo, which have deliberately made a choice in favor of this anti-Russian policy instead of developing mutually beneficial cooperation and good neighborly relations,” it added.
Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida called Russia’s move “extremely unreasonable and totally unacceptable” during a parliament session.
Chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno also denounced the Russian invasion of Ukraine again, describing it as a “unilateral use of force to change the status quo” and “a clear violation of international law.”
Japan considers that the Russian decision to break off the peace negotiations is an attempt by the Kremlin to reflect the consequences of its onslaught of Ukraine on bilateral relations.
Besides suspending the negotiations, Russia canceled an agreement for visa-free travel by Japanese people to the Kuril Islands.
Up until the war in Ukraine, Japan and Russia had engaged in years of rapprochement with an aim to resolve strained ties between the two countries lingering for decades.
Japan lost the Kuril Islands archipelago, which lies between Russia and Japan’s Hokkaido Island, to the Soviet Union after its surrender in WWII but claims sovereignty over the four southernmost islands.
In 2018, Putin, and the then Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, promised at a summit to resume peace negotiations based on the 1956 Joint Declaration, which, according to Japan, included the return of two of the islands once the treaty was signed.
But the talks did not make any progress.
When Kishida took the helm as prime minister in October, hopes for a new Tokyo-Moscow rapprochement were high, since the Japanese leader was one of the most involved in improving bilateral relations, thanks to his role as foreign minister in the Abe government.
On February 23, the Japanese government announced the first round of sanctions against Russia after formally recognizing the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, and deploying military troops there.EFE