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Japan Seems to 'Start Changing Its Position on Kuril Islands'

© Sputnik / Sergey Krasnouhov / Go to the mediabankKuril Islands
Kuril Islands - Sputnik International
Japan seems to start changing its long-standing position on the return of four Kuril Islands, Russian newspaper Vzglyad reported. On Tuesday, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida stated that Japan will consider various options regarding the issue.

With his statement, Kishida reiterated the position of his first deputy Nobuo Kishi who told a Japanese TV Channel Sunday that Tokyo considers a wide range of possibilities in the negotiations with Russia.

"I think Vice-Minister Kishi's statement stands to reason taking into account the fact that the parties to the negotiations have different positions and that the debate is based on a wide range of options," Kishida said at a press conference in Tokyo.

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The diplomat urged the Japanese to accept the fact that the talks, in which Japan insists on the fulfilment of all its requirements, are unlikely to succeed.

In particular, Kishi pointed out that he doesn't exclude the scenario of returning only two of the four disputed Kuril Islands to Japan. He also said that if the territories become a part of Japan, the country's authorities would recognize the permanent right of residence for 17,000 Russians living on the islands.

According to political expert and former Russia's ambassador in Tokyo Alexander Panov, surveys show that more than half of the Japanese would accept the option of the return of only two, instead of four islands.

"It is possible that Nobuo Kishi's statements are aimed at learning the public opinion and possible negative reaction to such compromise. However, it is undeniable that Japan has changed its long-standing position on the non-recurrent return of the four islands," Panov told the newspaper.

Japan and Russia never signed a permanent peace treaty after World War II due to a disagreement over the four islands, which Russia calls the Southern Kurils and Japan the Northern Territories. The disputed islands, located in the Sea of Okhotsk, were claimed by Soviet forces at the end of the war.

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