Russian Premier Dmitry Medvedev on July 3 made his second visit to Kunashiri Island, located at the south end of the Chishima Islands, during his tour to the Far Eastern Federal District. He flew there from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk of Sakhalin Oblast. Medvedev became the first Soviet / Russian head of state to visit Kunashiri Island on November 1, 2010, when he went there as the Russian president.
Following the Russian leader’s first visit to Kunashiri in 2010, Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo published a statement in protest against his visit, arguing that it is “a renewed demonstration by Russia's supreme leader to continue and consolidate Russian occupation of the Chishima Islands” and “runs counter to seeking a fair solution to the territorial question.”
Medvedev made the latest tour in the Far East under the pretext of inspecting preparations for the APEC Summit to be held in Vladivostok this fall and to visit industrial facilities. However, the tour is also thought to exhibit Russia’s effective control over the territory.
Concerning the Japan-Russia territorial issue, Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko and Premier Dmitry Medvedev had talks in June on the occasion of the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, and agreed to reactivate bilateral talks on the question. The latest visit to Kunashiri Island contradicts their agreement to continue discussions in a calm manner.
On the day when Medvedev went to Kunashiri, Foreign Minister Genba Koichiro told the press in Sendai City that the visit “throws cold water on the effort to create a positive atmosphere for Japan-Russian relations.”
The territorial issue between Japan and Russia originated from the days following Japan’s surrender in World War II, when then Soviet Union leader Stalin trampled on a key principle of the post-war disposition, i.e. non-expansion of territory, and unilaterally annexed the Chishima Islands, Japan's historically recognized territory, as well as Habomai and Shikotan Islands, which are part of Hokkaido, into Soviet territory.
The Japanese government has tried to solve the issue within the framework of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in which Japan renounced its sovereignty over the Chishima Islands and called for the reversion of only the Islands of Kunashiri, Etorofu, Habomai, and Shikotan. It has failed to initiate negotiations based on historical facts and internationally-accepted norms.
The JCP has proposed to successive Japanese governments that it not recognize the treaty’s Chishima-handover clause as non-negotiable and negotiate with Russia from the standpoint of correcting the unjust post-war disposition. It calls for the reversion of all the Chishima Islands and the swift return of the Islands of Habomai and Shikotan.