Give up territorial claims if you want a peace treaty

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By Andrew Osborn

(Reuters) – Russia’s top security official, Dmitry Medvedev, told Japan on Tuesday that it would have to abandon its territorial claims to a group of Pacific islands if it wanted to conclude a peace treaty with Russia formally putting end of World War II.

Direct remarks by Medvedev, a former president and vice-president of the Russian Security Council, on what Moscow calls the Kuril Islands risk angering Japan, which claims four of the southernmost islands, which it calls the Territories of North.

Russia, the main successor state to the Soviet Union, and Japan never signed a peace treaty formally ending their hostilities during World War II, with the islands remaining the main stumbling block.

The islands are located off the coast of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island, and were seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II.

Diplomats from both sides have discussed the possibility of reviving a draft Soviet-era agreement that included returning two of the four islands to Japan as part of a peace deal.

But Russia withdrew from peace treaty negotiations with Japan and froze joint economic projects linked to the islands in 2022 due to Japanese sanctions linked to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Relations have deteriorated further since then.

Medvedev said he was responding to comments by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida who he said had come out in favor of a peace treaty with Russia.

“No one is against the peace treaty on the understanding that… the ‘territorial question’ is settled once and for all in accordance with the Russian constitution,” Medvedev said on his official X account.

In 2020, the Russian constitution was amended to prohibit the ceding of territory to a foreign power.

Medvedev, who presents himself as one of the Kremlin’s most radical anti-West hawks, said Japan should also accept Russia developing the Kuril Islands and stationing new weapons there.

“We don’t care about ‘feelings of the Japanese’ regarding the so-called ‘Northern Territories’. These are not disputed territories but Russia,” Medvedev said.

“And samurai who are feeling particularly sad can end their lives in the traditional Japanese way, by committing seppuku (Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment). If they dare, of course.”

Medvedev accused Japan of moving closer to the United States despite the fact that the American military dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Russia said in December that it viewed joint military exercises by Japan, the United States and Australia near Hokkaido as a “potential security threat.” He complained that Japan – with help from the United States – was expanding its military infrastructure and increasing its arms purchases.

Japan has periodically expressed concern over Russia’s strengthening of its military infrastructure on the disputed island chain.

(Reporting by Reuters; writing by Andrew Osborn; editing by John Davison and Ros Russell)

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