The former Prime Minister of Japan Mr Shinzo Abe said that Russia & Japan were closest to signing a peace treaty in 2018. Speaking to Japan’s Nikkei business newspaper, Mr Abe said the treaty was not signed due to escalating tensions between Washington and Moscow due to the events in Ukraine in 2014.
Many in the Japanese media had speculated about the possible handover of two out of the four disputed southern Kuril islands to Japan.
The former Premier also said that he would have dissolved the parliament for reelection to let the Japanese public decide the fate of the deal.
Previously, in an interview with another newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, Mr Abe hoped that his successor Yoshihide Suga will be able to boost talks with Russia to resolve the peace treaty issue.
On May 22, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told a press conference that Tokyo’s position on the southern Kuril Islands and the peace treaty issue has not changed.
The Russians and the Japanese have been at odds with each other over the ownership issue of the Southern Kuril Islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan. After the end of World War II, the Kuril Islands were incorporated into the Soviet Union. However, the ownership of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan Islands and the Habomai Islands were challenged by Japan.
In November 2018, the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a meeting in Singapore and agreed to speed up peace treaty talks based on the 1956 Joint Declaration. The document ended the state of war and said that the Soviet government was ready to hand Shikotan Island and a group of small islands over to Japan on condition that Tokyo would take control of them once a peace treaty is signed.