Isles illegally occupied by Russia: draft report

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Northern territory is seen from above Nemuro, Hokkaido.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Foreign Ministry says in a draft of its Diplomatic Bluebook for 2022 that four northwestern Pacific islands at the center of a territorial row between Japan and Russia are illegally occupied by Moscow.

The draft, presented at a meeting including members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Foreign Affairs Division on Thursday, states that the islands are inherent territory of Japan.

It is the first time since 2003 for the Diplomatic Bluebook to describe the islands, known in Japan as the northern territories, as being illegally occupied by Russia. The change in tone comes as Tokyo sees it necessary to clarify its fundamental stance on the matter, seriously taking Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which started on Feb. 24.

The islands were seized by the former Soviet Union from Japan at the end of World War II. The territorial row has prevented Tokyo and Moscow from concluding a peace treaty to formally end their wartime hostilities. The draft for the annual report says, “We are not in a situation where we can talk about the outlook” for Japan-Russia peace treaty negotiations.

It strongly condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying it is “a challenge against the foundations of the international order built up by human beings over the past century, including the prohibition on the use of force, the rule of law and respect for human rights, and can thus never be tolerated.”

Calling the crisis “a major turning point in history,” the draft says Russia, through the ongoing war against Ukraine, is seeking to regain the sphere of influence that it lost following the Cold War.

On Japan’s national security environment, it points out that countries with strong armed forces are reinforcing their military power further and increasing their military activities, in an apparent reference to Russia, China and North Korea.

It calls for the thorough strengthening of Japan’s defense capabilities and the further enhancement of deterrence and response capabilities centering around the Japan-U.S. alliance.

The draft says that the pickup and spread of China’s military activity in the East China and South China seas and their airspace is a point of grave concern for regional and international security.

It voices concern over North Korea’s launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles in February and March, saying that the country is “repeating launches in new forms at an extremely high frequency.”