The Yomiuri ShimbunThe Japanese government intends to propose that Japan and Russia mutually abandon rights to compensation and other claims over the four northern islands during negotiations on a peace treaty, according to sources close to the bilateral talks.
The idea has emerged to form an agreement specifying abandonment of rights to claim compensation at the same time a peace treaty is concluded.
The Japanese government is also considering paying compensation to Japanese former residents of the islands who were forced from their own land after World War II.
The approach is apparently aimed at resolving the two countries’ efforts to deal with the war’s aftermath and building a future-oriented bilateral relationship.
The 1956 Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration, which declared an end to the state of war between the two countries, stipulates that both countries abandon all claims that arose as a result of the war since Aug. 9, 1945, when the then Soviet Union joined the war against Japan.
However, a source close to the matter explained the Japanese government’s position, saying, “The joint declaration is meant to deal with looting and property damage caused before the state of war ended, and thus Japan has not abandoned the rights to claim compensation based on the land ownership rights of the former islanders and other issues.”
The Japanese government has argued that Tokyo and the former islanders have the right to seek compensation and make other claims against Russia regarding the four northern islands, which are Japanese territory but remain under Russian occupation even after the war.
However, the Japanese government has judged that “negotiations with Russia over the territorial issue, which are already difficult, will become even more complicated” if Japan continues claiming rights to compensation, according to a government source.
Former residents of the northern islands numbered about 6,000 as of March last year. The Japanese government is considering paying former islanders an appropriate amount in exchange for no longer being able to demand reparations from Russia for infringing on their property rights — such as by preventing them from using their land — when the islands were illegally occupied by Moscow.
In the event that only two of the four islands are returned to Japan, causing former islanders to lose land and other property rights on the two islands that become Russian territory, the Japanese government is considering paying them an amount corresponding to their losses.
The joint declaration, which is legally binding under international law, stipulates that the Habomai group of islets and Shikotan Island will be returned to Japan after a peace treaty is concluded. However, it does not directly refer to Etorofu and Kunashiri islands.
Regarding Russia, a Japanese government source said, “It’s hard to imagine they will demand compensation from Japan.” However, Japan still intends to call on Russia to abandon all compensation rights in a bid to end the postwar diplomatic tussle between the two countries. In addition, Tokyo is considering a plan to offer assistance to Moscow through economic cooperation and other means.
After the terms of the peace treaty and the agreement renouncing claims take shape, the Japanese government plans to make the domestic legal arrangements necessary for compensation and other related purposes, according to the sources.Speech