Russian Foreign Minister Says No Territorial Dispute with Japan

Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool via REUTERS
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint press conference with Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Aleinik following their talks in Moscow, Russia December 15, 2023.

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has claimed that his country has no territorial disputes with other countries including Japan, indicating that Moscow will not engage in negotiations over the so-called Northern Territories.

Lavrov made the remark in an interview Monday on Channel 1, a Kremlin-backed television channel. According to the published transcript of the interview, the minister mentioned Japan after claiming that Russia has no territorial dispute with NATO, in rebuttal to U.S. President Joe Biden’s recent remark that Russia may attack a member of the military alliance as it did Ukraine.

The Northern Territories are the four Russia-held northwestern Pacific islands claimed by Japan. Lavrov said that the issue regarding the islands is a done deal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday filed his candidacy in the presidential election slated for March next year. With a fifth term all but in the bag, Putin’s administration is likely to maintain the position that territorial issues have been resolved even if there is an opportunity for dialogue with Japan.

The 2020 Russian constitutional amendment, which made term limits a dead letter, also included a clause banning the ceding of territory in principle.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in March last year, soon after the start of the invasion of Ukraine, that it would stop talks to conclude a peace treaty with Japan, which imposed sanctions on Moscow.

In an interview with Russia’s Interfax news agency Saturday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko slammed Tokyo for what he described as an open pursuit of an unfriendly policy, saying that there is no prospect of continuing dialogue for concluding a bilateral treaty of friendship and cooperation.

By not calling it a peace treaty, Rudenko indicated Moscow’s aim of excluding any territorial dispute from the pact.

The disputed islands were seized from Japan by Soviet troops in the closing days of World War II.