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    TOKYO INSISTS ON RETURN OF "NORTHERN TERRITORIES"

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    TOKYO, March 1 (RIA Novosti'sv Andrei Fesyun) - Japan's stand on normalizing relations with Russia remains unchanged, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stated at the meeting of the Japanese parliament on Tuesday.

    "The territorial problem is the most important in Japanese-Russian relations. No changes have occurred in it - we are ready to conclude a peace treaty with Russia after the return of four islands," Mr. Koizumi said.

    The resolution on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the establishment of interstate relations, which was unanimously adopted by the House of Representatives of the Japanese Parliament on February 22 demanded that the government "intensify the talks with Moscow with a view to concluding a peace treaty by way of resolving the problem of the belonging of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai, as well as other 'Northern Territories'".

    Japan lays claim to Iturup, Kunashir and Shikotan islands and Habomai archipelago, which are called "Northern Territories" in Japan. These four islands of the South Kuril Chain joined the Soviet Union in 1945. In keeping with the peace treaty concluded between Japan and the allies (but not the USSR) on September 8, 1951, Japan renounced all the rights to Southern Sakhalin (which was annexed by Japan as a result of the defeat of tsarist Russia in the Russian-Japanese war of 1904-1905) and the Kurils.

    In 1956 the Soviet Union and Japan signed a joint declaration which was then ratified by the USSR Supreme Soviet (parliament). The accord on transferring Habomai and Shikotan islands to Japan after the signing of a peace treaty between the two countries was registered in that document.

    In 1960 Japan signed a military treaty with the USA, which formalized the presence of American bases on its territory. In the USSR they assessed this pact as directed against it. In this connection, the Soviet side stated that fulfillment of the promise to transfer Habomai and Shikotan to Japan wasimpossible.

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