MOSCOW, June 2 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's national interests underlie the operation of the foreign ministry, including as regards Japan. Alexander Yakovenko, the official spokesman of the ministry, said this in an interview with Sovetskaya Rossia, the newspaper that had published a letter from a group of deputies of the Sakhalin regional Duma.
The deputies call for acting on Russia's national interests in relations with Japan, that is, not surrender four Kuril Islands to Japan.
The diplomat noted that in the last few years Russia-Japan relations had progress in various spheres. They are waging an energetic political dialogue and developing interdepartmental contacts, including between military and law enforcement agencies. Bilateral trade has reached a record figure in the history of their relations, economic interaction is progressing, and the two states are collaborating on an increasing number of international problems. Their cultural relations and human exchanges are developing dynamically.
"We are not avoiding dialogue with Japan on the so-called problem of the peace treaty, which boils down to Tokyo's rejection of the international legal formalization of the border between out countries," Yakovenko said.
The stand of the Russian foreign ministry is well known: "According to the post-war settlement, the Kuril Islands are the national territory of Russia. Japan does not accept this formula, and this is the essence of the 'territorial dispute' in Russia-Japan relations."
The official ministry spokesman said that the settlement of all disputed issues and formalization of the border along the country's perimeter is a long-term task, which the president set to the diplomats. "But negotiations on this issue do not mean that Russia's foreign ministry is ready to make territorial concessions," he stressed.
Tokyo keeps saying that the signing of the peace treaty with Russia would become possible only after the return of the four Kuril Islands, which had been turned over to the Soviet Union (along with southern Sakhalin) after the defeat of Japan in the Second World War.