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    Soviet Union Didn't 'Steal' Kuril Islands From Japan

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    The Sankei Shimbun newspaper has recently alleged that the Soviet Union "stole the Kuril Islands" in the last days of World War II, while Professor Hiroshi Kimura claimed that Russia must return the territories and pay interest for seven decades. In an interview with Sputnik, analyst Anatoly Koshkin described these claims as absurd.

    "Those who lost are in no position to demand anything from the winner," he pointed out.

    Koshkin maintained that Tokyo deprived itself of any rights to the Kuril Islands, that Japan refers to as the Northern Territories, long before WWII. This is how it works.

    In 1905, Russia handed over the southern part of the Sakhalin Island under the Treaty of Portsmouth that was signed following the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. This is when Tokyo lost legal rights to the Kuril Islands.

    It all started in 1875 when Russia transferred the Kurils to Japan in exchange for Tokyo's pledge not to claim Sakhalin.

    "In 1905, the head of the Russian delegation, Sergei Witte, told the Japanese during the Portsmouth talks that their claims to Sakhalin went against the 1875 agreements. Foreign Minister Komura Jutarō responded that war annulled any previous deals, Russia lost the war and changing circumstance had to be taken into account," the analyst narrated.

    In addition, the Japanese delegation added a clause that scrapped all previous agreements between Moscow and Tokyo, including the 1855 Treaty of Shimoda, the 1875 agreement and the 1895 trade treaty.

    "This is how Japan lost any legal ground to claim the Kuril Islands," Koshkin said.

    Kuril Islands
    Kuril Islands

    In 1925, Japan formally recognized the Soviet Union. The same year, Soviet leadership reaffirmed that it did not agree with the territorial outcome of the Russo-Japanese War, the analyst continued.

    Some might say that this is ancient history, but there is more. Following its defeat in WWII, Tokyo agreed that its "sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku, and such minor islands as we determine," as stated by the 1945 Potsdam Declaration.

    In addition, Tokyo renounced its claims to the Kuril Islands by becoming party to the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco.

    "Japan renounces all right, title and claim to the Kurile Islands, and to that portion of Sakhalin and the islands adjacent to it over which Japan acquired sovereignty as a consequence of the Treaty of Portsmouth of September 5, 1905," the treaty said.

    Signed by 48 nations, it came into force a year later. The document is still in effect. In other words, the Soviet Union did not steal these territories.

    Yet some, like Professor Hiroshi Kimura of Hokkaido University find it hard to agree with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov when he said that Kuril Islands became part of the Soviet Union as a result of WWII and Tokyo has to accept this.

    "The Japanese government has to understand that if it follows the logic expressed by Professor Hiroshi Kimura and other writers at Sankei Shimbun, a peace treaty between Japan and Russia will not be signed for a very long time," Koshkin observed.

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    documents, history, Japan, Russia, Soviet Union, Sakhalin Island, Kuril Islands
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