By HAKAMADA Shigeki
Japan will host the G7 Ise-Shima summit on May 26 and 27. Prior to this, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit several countries in Europe and Sochi of Russia during the "Golden Week" holidays in early May, in order to meet European leaders and President Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed his hardline views in detail to deny everything associated with bilateral negotiations with Japan since the Soviet era, regarding the Russo-Japanese peace treaty. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Abe dares to visit Russia to have a bilateral summit, despite objection and concerns among Western allies, notably the United States.
The foremost reason for it that Abe proclaims publicly is to conclude the peace treaty with Russia. If he is dedicated to the summit with Putin so much, I would suggest that the Japanese government do the following, in order to gain an understanding from the global community.
That is, to promote Japanese viewpoints on this issue both at home and abroad, in order to show how Russian arguments are clearly wrong. Up to now, the Japanese government has been too considerate of the Russian side, though their criticism to Japan dismisses past negotiations for the peace treaty. If this goes on, the global community will not understand Japan's standpoint. Also, it would make Abe defensive at the summit, from the beginning.
These days, the Kremlin disseminates strongly anti-Japanese propagandas worldwide that deny all the processes of past Russo-Japanese talks on the Kuril Islands dispute, though these arguments are poorly reasoned. Their point is that the territorial dispute after World War II has been settled, and "the Russo-Japanese talks for the peace treaty are irrelevant to the territorial issue".
On the Russian side, President Putin said "South Kuril (Northern Territories for Japan) belongs to Russia as a result of World War II, according to the international law" in September 2005, and even told more harshly, "The transfer of Habomai and Shikotan islands based on the Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration is not territorial retrocession" in March 2012 and May 2014.
Last year, Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov dismissed the fact completely as to mention, "We have not done any negotiation with Japan regarding the territorial dispute." Furthermore, Foreign Minister Lavrov invited 200 Russian and more than 250 foreign journalists to the press conference on January 26 this year, to denounce Japan for unfounded reasons, by referring to the UN Charter and the Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration in detail.
What Russian leaders argue consistently today, is that Japan does not recognize the reality settled as a result of World War II, in other words, Japan is too revisionist.
Lavrov's press conference was held when Ukraine and Syria drew much attention from the global community, and he told about the Russo-Japanese peace treaty in detail on this occasion, on behalf of the Russian government. That suggests implicitly that there is a strong intension on the Russian side to promote their logic on the peace treaty with Japan throughout the world.
What I am most critically concerned is that the Japanese side does not reveal information to the Japanese public and the global community, to show how Russian logics are outrageous, while Russia launches international campaigns aggressively.
Regretfully, the Japanese government just said "Russian claims are unconstructive and not in accordance with facts and our bilateral summits agreements" to argue against Morgulov. But I am quite skeptical whether such a statement persuades anyone into understanding why Russian arguments defy facts and bilateral agreements, and why they are wrong.
Also, I am concerned with Japanese counterargument to the appalling view presented by Foreign Minister Lavrov, in the same way. The Japanese government just said "Their claims are unacceptable for us, because the centerpiece of the peace treaty is the sovereignty issue of the Northern Territories, that is, the territorial dispute," without explaining why Russian side claims were wrong.
Moreover, the Japanese side said, "We do not consider specific actions against them, including protest." Of course, sensitive diplomatic negotiation processes like territorial talks should be kept secret. However, the Japanese government should promote their fundamental viewpoints to the global community more proactively, in order to refute Russian distortion of the fact.
Source : The Japan Forum on International Relations (JFIR) E-Letter 20 June 2016, Vol. 9, No.3