Russian and Japanese diplomats meet over Kuril islands dispute

Russian and Japanese diplomats meet over Kuril islands dispute

The Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, Nikolai Patrushev, will meet with Japanese security officials today to coordinate the

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Photo: Yuri Maltsev/Reuters

The Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, Nikolai Patrushev, will meet with Japanese security officials today to coordinate the agenda for a Russian-Japanese conference during this week’s Eastern Economic Forum.

The conference will focus on possible solutions to conflicting claims over the highly contentions Kuril Islands. Located off the northern coast of Japan, the four islands were seized by the Soviet Union after World War II.

The Kurils, which Moscow has recently bolstered militarily, guarantee naval access to the Pacific Ocean and many of its northern trade routes, as well as the islands’ fish and rare earth elements stocks. Fearing they could potentially house American military instalments, Russia is unwilling to cede any of the islands to Japan. Similarly, relinquishing the islands could ignite other territorial disputes with countries like Ukraine.

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe faces similar challenges, as his government, which is struggling with severe unpopularity, is supported by right-wing nationalists, most of whom support the return of all four islands.

All this means neither Mr Abe nor Vladimir Putin can politically afford to budge. Having kept Russia and Japan technically at war for over 60 years, the issue will likely remain frozen for the foreseeable future.