Russia surprised over Japanese reluctance to hold joint press conference

Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky: The Russian Foreign Ministry is surprised as Japanese partners are opposed to holding a joint press conference after the meeting of the Russian and Japanese top diplomats in Moscow on January 14, official spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

“The greatest surprise for us was that before the bilateral talks the Japanese colleagues asked us not to hold a joint press conference on its results,” Zakharova told Vesti Nedeli program on Rossiya-1 TV channel.

The diplomat called this approach of the Japanese colleagues strange and contradictory. “On the one hand, [this is] whipping up tensions ahead of talks and creating a very nervous atmosphere both in Japan and in general on this agenda and on the other hand, there is no desire to go to the press after the talks and say what’s the outcome,” she explained.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono are due to hold a meeting in the morning of January 14. The Russian Foreign Ministry stressed earlier that the key condition for resolving the problem with the peace treaty is Tokyo’s unconditional recognition of the outcome of World War II, including Russia’s sovereignty over the Southern Kuril Islands.

Earlier, Tokyo said there was the need to ‘get understanding’ of residents of the Southern Kuril Islands on the issue of “transfer of the islands to Japan.” On January 9, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Japan’s Ambassador to Moscow Toyohisa Kozuki in connection with these remarks. The ministry emphasized that these statements distort the essence of agreements between the Russian and Japanese leaders.

Russia and Japan have been in talks to sign a peace treaty since the mid-20th century. The main stumbling block to achieving this is the ownership issue over the Southern Kuril Islands. After the end of World War II, the Kuril Islands were incorporated into the Soviet Union.

However, the ownership of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan Islands and the Habomai Islands is being challenged by Japan. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has stated many times that Russia’s sovereignty over the islands is beyond doubt. In 1956, the Soviet Union and Japan signed a joint declaration on ceasing the state of war, but no peace treaty has been signed so far.