Russia rejects Japan’s claim of sovereignty over disputed islands

The Kremlin has rejected a recent claim made by new Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida that Japan’s sovereignty extends to a chain of islands disputed with Moscow.

“We disagree with such statements. This is the territory of the Russian Federation,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said at a press briefing on Tuesday while commenting on Kishida’s remark that Japan holds sovereignty over the Kuril Islands — known by Tokyo as the Northern Territories.

“Russia has repeatedly reaffirmed its political will on different levels to continue dialog with Japan to find solutions to the sensitive issues that remain on the agenda,” Peskov added.

The Kuril Islands, located in the Sea of Okhotsk, lie fewer than 10 kilometers from Japan’s Hokkaido.

The territorial dispute over the islands dates back to the time when the Soviet army captured them at the end of World War II. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the four islands were incorporated into the Russian Federation but Japan continues to lay claim to them.

According to a joint declaration signed in 1956, the Soviet Union agreed to return two of the islands provided that a bilateral peace treaty is signed. Japan refused to sign such an agreement, insisting on the return of all four islands.

Russia has had military bases on the Kuril Islands since World War II and has deployed missile systems there.

The island’s current population is about 20,000 people. Japan and Russia have since 2017 agreed on charter flights for former Japanese inhabitants to visit family graves there.

The islands are rich in hot springs and minerals and rare metals such as rhenium, which is used in the production of supersonic aircraft.

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