Following the deterioration of relations between Japan and Russia due to the war in Ukraine, Japan on Friday described the disputed Kuril Islands as “illegally occupied” by Russia, a characterization that had not been used for almost two decades.
The two countries are trying to reach an agreement on a treaty after World War II, but the Kuril Islands, which the Japanese call the “Northern Territories”, remain an obstacle as both countries claim them.
Japan had to designate the islands as occupied since 2003, according to a Japanese Foreign Ministry report.
Its publication this year Diplomatic Bluebook report of the Japanese Foreign Ministry comes at a time when strong sanctions have been imposed on Russia by Japan and its G7 partners, as well as before a review of Japan’s national security strategy later in the year.
“The biggest concern between Japan and Russia is the Northern Territories,” the Bluebook states, referring to “Japanese territories in which Japan has sovereign rights but is currently illegally occupied by Russia.”
The Japanese Foreign Ministry also said that talks on the treaty with Russia would be stopped. Moscow also said it would abandon talks last month, citing the “inability” to continue talks “with a country that has taken an openly hostile stance and is trying to harm our country’s interests.”