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CLARA MOSCHINI

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Tokyo: Abe announces new era in relations with Moscow

Towards the resolution of territorial problems and a peace treaty

Distinctive wind between Japan and Russia: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a speech to Parliament has announced in these hours that the country will open a new era in relations with Moscow: "On the basis of the relationship of trust between me and President Putin we will resolve the territorial problem and we will establish a peace treaty", he said. Not just territorial problems concerning the sovereignty of 4 Kurile islands: Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan and Habomai claimed by Tokyo. The Russian President spoke last week about the trust between the two governments and of territoriality, stating that "to conclude a peace treaty with Japan, it is necessary to increase the level of trust, but this is only possible after resolved a territorial problem".

A process of conciliation started -the Prime Minister continued- in 2016 during a visit by Putin to Nagato, when agreements between the two countries were reached today ongoing to act, which saw the signing of 80 documents, which between others included economic cooperation, the facilitation of visas and above all the consideration of joint economic activities on the four Curili subject to contention. An agreement that as a first step has allowed the former Japanese residents of those territories to be able to reach them by plane to visit the tombs of their loved ones. Already in 1956 the then Soviet Union and Japan in a joint declaration announced that Moscow accepted the possibility of restoring Habomai and Shikotan after the conclusion of a peace agreement. But the attempt ended in nothingness, because if Moscow was convinced that the dispute had been solved by consensus, it was a first step towards the complete re-appropriation of the four islands.

The same fate had all the negotiations that followed. Until today. Putin has in fact proposed to Abe to conclude the peace treaty by the end of the year, a prelude to future agreements also in other fields starting from the commercial one. Without setting conditions, except that the document contains a declaration of intent on the resolution of the territorial dispute. The Russians took over the Curili archipelago in the nineteenth century, and in 1857 gave it to Japan in exchange for the island of Sachalin, and then returned to claim it at the end of World War II, on the occasion of the Treaty of San Francisco. Currently Japan claims the four southern islands that the Tokyo government calls "the northern territories". But the solution to the dispute is hampered by the fact that the four islands are home to military and naval bases, the latter also for Russian nuclear submarines. In September 1983, in this area, the Soviet aviation knocked down a Korean airliner, the Kal 007 flight ended off course, mistaking it for an American spy plane.

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