Japan to Seek Only Two Russian-held Kuril Islands
The idea to negotiate the return of Shikotan and the Habomai group as a first step in the resolution of this long-standing diplomatic impasse belongs to the then Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who proposed it to Russian President Vladimir Putin in March 2001. However, negotiating the return of two rather than all four islands at once met with resistance in Japan, because of fears that such an arrangement would result in Moscow retaining control of Etorofu and Kunashiri indefinitely. Such concerns prompted Mori’s successor Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to seek a comprehensive resolution to the dispute before the two sides conclude a peace treaty, but Putin ultimately dismissed the suggestion. The revival of the idea to negotiate over just two islands coincides with Putin’s return to the presidency yesterday, as the president-elect expressed a certain degree of willingness to resolve the issue in an interview with foreign media outlets in March of this year. However, other Russian media outlets, such as Fontanka.ru, claim that “no Russian president will ever relinquish the Kurils to Japan” and cite sources in the Kremlin as saying that “Japan missed its historical chance to solve this territorial problem already in 1996 when President Boris Yeltsin met with the Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto in Krasnoyarsk”.
In the meantime, on May 4, 2012 Kuril Islands experienced a series of off-shore earthquakes ranging in magnitude from 3.3 to 5.2 on the Richter scale. According to Regions.ru, there are no reports of destruction or casualties, and no tsunami warning has been announced.
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