Kishida: Northern territories ‘illegally occupied by Russia’

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, center, answers questions from Renho of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, right, during a session of the House of Councillors Budget Committee on Thursday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Thursday during a House of Councillors committee session that the northern territories have been “occupied illegally by Russia.”

The government had avoided using such an expression to promote negotiations for a peace treaty that would address the northern territories issue, but has now changed its stance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

According to the Foreign Ministry, this is the first time a Japanese prime minister in the Diet has referred to an “illegal occupation” regarding the northern territories since 2009 when then Prime Minister Taro Aso used the expression. At that time, Russia criticized the use of the expression, saying it was an attempt to challenge Russia’s sovereignty.

During a Budget Committee session on Thursday, Renho, an upper house member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, called for revising a budget plan for fiscal 2022 in which about ¥2.1 billion has been earmarked for economic cooperation with Russia. However, Kishida said, “That’s not something I’m considering.”

“Under the current circumstances, there is no way we can proceed with new [economic cooperation] projects,” Kishida said.

However, he went on to say that “the budget covers what could be called humanitarian assistance, such as joint research on pediatric cancer and medical care for the elderly.”

The budget also includes funds to provide information and other things to Japanese companies that have [already] started participating in the economic cooperation plans,” he added.