Russia Designates Japan Group on Disputed Isles Undesirable

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The northern territories, with the Nemuro Peninsula seen in the lower left

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office designated a Japanese group of former residents of disputed northwestern Pacific islands as an undesirable organization Friday.

The activities of the organization, called Chishima Renmei for short, are aimed at violating the territorial integrity of Russia and have posed a threat to the foundations of the country’s constitutional order and national security, the office said.

The goal of the organization is to take part of territory away from Russia, the office added.

The islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan, are at the center of the two countries’ long-standing territorial dispute. The Russian-held islands were seized from Japan by the Soviet Union in the closing days of World War II.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration in March last year announced a suspension of the two countries’ negotiations to resolve the territorial dispute and conclude a bilateral peace treaty, after Tokyo introduced sanctions on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

In September that year, Russia also unilaterally scrapped its agreement with Japan on some bilateral activities including visa-free exchanges between Japanese and Russian people.

Russia said the move would not affect a program allowing former Japanese residents of the Russian-held islands to visit the graves of their relatives and ancestors on the islands. But it would be effectively impossible to resume such visits if the designation leads to a ban on the Japanese group’s activities in Russia.

In February this year, a government-sponsored national rally to demand the return of the Northern Territories adopted a slogan blaming Russia for its “illegal occupation” of the islands for the first time in five years.

In its Diplomatic Bluebook annual reports for 2022 and 2023, the government described the islands as being “illegally occupied.”

Russia’s designation followed the developments.

In May last year, Moscow imposed a ban on entry into Russia by Chishima Renmei leader Kimio Waki and other people involved in the movement to seek the return of the Northern Territories.