Shii gives gov’t suggestion to solve Japan-Russia territorial issue

Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo on November 9 met with Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku Yoshito at the Diet building and demanded that the government drastically reconsider its policy on the Japan-Russia territorial issue and move toward achieving a resolution.

He also gave Sengoku a written proposal to be forwarded to Prime Minister Kan Naoto.

In the meeting, Shii pointed out that Stalin’s violation of the postwar “territorial non-expansion” principle lies behind the Japan-Russia territorial issue.

Shii also pointed out, “Another fundamental cause of controversy was that Japan under Article 2, Clause C of the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty renounced its claim to the Chishima Islands.”

Most of the problems brought about by Stalin’s territorial expansionism, such as the annexation of Poland and three Baltic states, have been resolved, but the Chishima Islands issue is still left unresolved, he said.

Shii stated, “Now that your party, the Democratic Party of Japan, took over the reins of power from the previously ruling Liberal Democratic Party, you should change the conventional approach regarding the issue that the successive LDP governments took on territorial talks with Russia.”

Sengoku said, “Stalin’s act is just as you have pointed out; I also believe that Stalin trampled on the postwar ‘territorial non-expansion’ principle.”

However, he went on to say, “I find it difficult to reverse the San Francisco Treaty because it represents the starting point for postwar Japan.”

Shii in reply stated, “I’m not saying that you must scrap the treaty in its entirety, but that you should review Article 2, Clause C. In fact, Okinawa was returned to Japan even though Japan under the Treaty’s Article 3 had handed the administrative rights over Okinawa to the United States. So, it is not something that you cannot change.”

Sengoku replied, “Yes, I will read and study your written proposal carefully.”

The written proposal is as follows:

DPJ Government Should Conduct Fundamental Review of Stances Taken by Successive LDP Governments on the Japan-Russia Territorial Negotiations

November 9, 2010


On November 1, President Medvedev of the Russian Federation visited Kunashiri Island of the Chishima Islands, the first time any supreme leader of Russia or Soviet Union has done so. It is reported that he even plans to visit the islands of Habomai and Shikotan. Recently Russia declared September 2 as the “End of World War II Day” (virtually “Victory over Japan Day”), which is the date when Japan signed the surrender document to the Allied Powers in 1945. Russia has also taken the attitude that territorial changes should not be allowed, saying that the Chishima (Kurile) Islands “became part of Russia’s territory as a result of the World War II.” By these words and deeds, Russia intends to entrench for the future its unjust acquisition of the Chishima Islands and the islands of Habomai and Shikotan, which are Japan’s historically legitimate territories. We cannot condone this.

Russia took the liberty of taking such a forceful attitude basically because the successive Liberal Democratic Party governments had been dealing with the Japan-Russia (the former Soviet Union) territorial question with a position and policies devoid of internationally accepted norms. In order to fairly solve the territorial question, we need a compelling logic of argument that is persuasive to not only the international community but also the Russian people. In the history of the Japan-Russia territorial talks after WWII, however, the successive LDP governments had never taken a position backed up by the historical facts and international accepted norms. Accumulation of these practices resulted in such hardened stances by Russia.

The government of the Democratic Party of Japan, born of a change of government, should not uncritically carry on the LDP government policy towards the Japan-Russia territorial negotiations. We call on the present government to drastically reformulate its policy, based on a review of the futile territorial negotiations for the past half-century.


The origin of the present Japan-Russia territorial dispute goes back to the Stalin’s great-power chauvinist policy of territorial expansion at the end of WWII. Stalin demanded “handover” of the Chishima Islands at the Yalta talks as a condition for the Soviet entry into the war against Japan, and the United States and Britain accepted it. Based on this secret agreement, Stalin annexed the whole Chishima Islands from Kunashiri and Etorofu to Shumushu, which had historically been Japan’s legitimate territory. It was a flagrant violation of the principle of “non-aggrandizement of territory” in the post-war disposition, which was clearly stated in the 1943 Cairo Declaration among others, and agreed to by Stalin himself. What is more, the Soviet Union went so far as to occupy the islands of Habomai and Shikotan, which belonged to Hokkaido, not the Chishima Islands.

Rectifying the unfair post-war disposition forced upon Japan at the end of WWII in violation of the key principle of “non-expansion of territory” must form a basis for solving the Japan-Russia territorial question.


Why can we not have the slightest prospect of solving the Japan-Russia territorial question well after 65 years since the end of WWII? It is because the successive LDP governments neither demanded that Russia correct this unfair post-war disposition nor appealed to the international community in this regard. Successive Japanese governments have erred fundamentally on the following two counts:

The first error was that Japan agreed to “renounce all right, title and claim” on the Chishima Islands in Article 2 (c) of the San Francisco Peace Treaty. It was an unjustifiable clause which retroactively confirmed the Chishima provision in the Yalta secret agreement. The past governments did not take a position to rectify this “handover-Chishima” clause.

The second error was that it introduced into the territorial negotiations a logic which does not hold water for the international community, in an attempt to settle the territorial dispute within the confines of the Yalta agreement and the San Francisco Peace Treaty. During the Japan-Soviet negotiations to normalize the diplomatic relations started from 1955, the Japanese government suddenly changed its previous position and started to demand the Soviet Union return the “four islands,” consisting of the islands of Kunashiri and Etorofu, which Japan now claimed were not part of the Chishima Islands, and the islands of Habomai and Shikotan. But looking back at the San Francisco Peace Conference and during the Diet debate on the ratification of the Peace Treaty, the then Japanese government had officially stated that the Chishima Islands renounced by Japan in the Treaty included both the islands of Kunashiri and Etorofu. To overturn this interpretation at a later date is absolutely untenable.

As a result of the Japanese government's continued insistence on such erroneous positions, the Japan-Russia territorial negotiations have accomplished no tangible result. Added to this, Japan has made a series of unilateral concessions from time to time. Since 1990s, there have been various “agreements” between the governments of Japan and Russia, including the 1993 Tokyo Declaration, all of which contain serious defects as follows:

*Japan limited the scope of the territorial negotiations within the bounds of the “four islands,” i.e. Kunashiri, Etorohu, Habomai and Shikotan, giving up even demanding return of the Northern Chishima Islands from the beginning;

* By leaving the Northern Chishima Islands outside the scope of the territorial negotiations in the first place, Japan also lost valid grounds for demanding return of the Southern Chishima Islands (Kunashiri and Etorofu). This was in spite of the fact that the whole Chishima Islands are the territory of which Japan has a legitimate basis for reversion and there was no legal rationale whatsoever behind the government's differentiating the Northern and Southern Chishima Islands;

*Japan closed an avenue for early return of the islands of Habomai and Shikotan by demanding collective return of the “four islands,” lumping together two different categories of islands, Kunashiri and Etorofu in the Chishima Islands on the one hand, Habomai and Kunashiri belonging to Hokkaido on the other. The islands of Habomai and Shikotan should revert to Japan earlier than a peace treaty being concluded between the two countries, because these are part of Hokkaido, not part of the Chishima Islands that Japan renounced.

The LDP government took this or that measure assuming that increased “economic cooperation” with Russia or strengthened “personal trust” between the leaders of both countries would advance the negotiations, instead of having any internationally accepted principles on its side. However, this approach has proven to be a failure in solving the territorial dispute.


A mere extension of the policy of the successive LDP governments would not lead to solution of the Japan-Russia territorial dispute. If the government seriously intends to solve this issue, it needs to radically reconsider the previous policy. Further, it should demonstrate diplomatic prowess backed up by reason and just cause of rectifying the past unfair actions according to the principle of “non-expansion of territory” as agreed on in the post-WWII disposition.

The JCP published its policy on the Chishima Islands question in 1969, in which we demanded return of the whole Chishima Islands (both Northern and Southern) that are Japan’s historically legitimate territory, along with early return of the islands of Habomai and Shikotan which are part of Hokkaido. We call on the DPJ government to fundamentally review the doubly-erred policies of the successive LDP governments based on the following two positions :

Firstly, the government should stop considering the Yalta Agreement clause on 'handing over the Chishima Islands” and the San Francisco Treaty clause on “renouncing the Kurile Islands” as fait accompli and should revisit the treaty in a fundamental way. A treaty is not something which cannot be amended. It is universally recognized in international law that if a treaty or a part of a treaty is in contravention of internationally accepted and recognized justice, a signatory country has the right to rectify it with the consent of its citizens. Take for example the San Francisco Peace Treaty. Its Article 3 stipulated that the administrative power over Okinawa be given to the United States. Yet in the early 1970s, Japan regained the administrative right in power over Okinawa, though the U.S. military bases question there remained unresolved.

Secondly, before entering the Japan-Russia territorial negotiations, the government should historically reexamine the international borders delimited by both countries through peaceful negotiations. Japan must place this as the point of departure in the negotiations. The historical facts clearly show that the whole Chishima Islands (both the Southern Chishima consisting of Kunashiri and Etorofu islands, and the Northern Chishima from Uruppu to Shumushu islands) are Japan's legitimate territory peacefully determined by the 1855 Japan-Russia Trade and Friendship Treaty and 1875 Sakhalin-Chishima Exchange Treaty, both concluded through diplomatic negotiations. The negotiations must start from these historical facts. The government should stop clinging to the history-distorting argument that Kunashiri and Etorofu are not part of the Chishima Islands.


The various territorial disputes which originated in Stalin's hegemonist expansion of territory during WWII have mostly been settled, including annexation of three Baltic states and part of Poland. Today only the Chishima Islands remain as they were, unjustly annexed by Stalin, without criticism by the affected country.

We strongly demand the DPJ government conduct a fundamental review of the past territorial negotiations under the LDP governments, making a policy shift to one based on the historical facts and internationally accepted norms.

- Akahata, November 10, 2010

The Central Committee of the Japanese Communist Party
4-26-7 Sendagaya,Shibuya-ku,Tokyo 151-8586